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TOLSTOY 



Demy 8vo, cloth, 12s. 6d. net. 

A Literary History of Russia. 

By A. BrCckner, Professor of Slavonic 

Languages and Literature in the 

University of Berlin. 

Edited by Ellis H. Minns. Translated by 

H. Havelock. 
"One of the greatest Slavonic scholars has in 
this volume his say on the greatest Slavonic 
literature. ' ' Athenecum. 

"The author's learning is amazing, and his 
digestion of the life-work of critics, scholars, 
theologians, biographers, historians, politicians, 
controversialists, dramatists, poets, and novelists 
is extraordinary. In living and picturesque 
phrases Herr BrUckner hits off the leading cha- 
racteristics and value of hundreds of writers and 
of over a thousand works." Daily Ntws. 



LONDON: T. FISHER UNWIN. 



'3& TOLSTOY 

ft 



BY 

ROMAIN ROLLAND 

AUTHOR OF "JEAN CHRISTOPHE " 



Translated by 
BERNARD MIALL 



501792 

it. i-e. 4-^ 



T. FISHER UNWIN 

LONDON: ADELPHI TERRACE 

LEIPSIC: INSELSTRASSE 20 

1911 



(All rights reserved.) 



PREFACE 

To those of my own generation, the light that 
has but lately failed was the purest that illumined 
their youth. In the gloomy twilight of the later 
nineteenth century it shone as a star of consolation, 
whose radiance attracted and appeased our awaken- 
ing spirits. As one of the many for there are 
many in France to whom Tolstoy was very much 
more than an admired artist : for whom he was a 
friend, the best of friends, the one true friend in 
the whole of European art I wish to lay before 
this sacred memory my tribute of gratitude and 
of love. 

The days when I learned to know him are 
days that I shall never forget. It was in 1886. 
After some years of silent germination the 
marvellous flowers of Russian art began to blossom 
on the soil of France. Translations of Tolstoy 
and of Dostoyevsky were being issued in feverish 
haste by all the publishing houses of Paris. Be- 
tween the years '85 and '87 came War and Peace t 
Anna Karenin, Childhood and Youth, Polikushka, The 
Death of Ivan Ilyitch, the novels of the Caucasus, 
and the Tales for the People. In the space of a 
few months, almost of a few weeks, there was 

6 



6 PREFACE 

revealed to our eager eyes the presentment of a 
vast, unfamiliar life, in which was reflected a new 
people, a new world. 

I had but newly entered the Normal College. 
My fellow-scholars were of widely divergent 
opinions. In our little world were such realistic 
and ironical spirits as the philosopher Georges 
Dumas ; poets, like Suares, burning with love of 
the Italian Renaissance ; faithful disciples of classic 
tradition ; Stendhalians, Wagnerians, atheists and 
mystics. It was a world of plentiful discussion, 
plentiful disagreement ; but for a period of some 
months we were nearly all united by a common 
love of Tolstoy. It is true that each loved him for 
different reasons, for each discovered in him him- 
self ; but this love was a love that opened the door 
to a revelation of life ; to the wide world itself. 
On every side in our families, in our country 
homes this mighty voice, which spoke from the 
confines of Europe, awakened the same emotions, 
unexpected as they often were. I remember my 
amazement upon hearing some middle-class people 
of Nivernais, my native province people who felt 
no interest whatever in art, people who read 
practically nothing speak with the most intense 
feeling of The Death of Ivan Ilyitch. 

I have read, in the writings of distinguished 
critics, the theory that Tolstoy owed the best of 
his ideas to the French romantics : to George 
Sand, to Victor Hugo. We may ignore the 
absurdity of supposing that Tolstoy, who could 
not endure her, could ever have been subject 



PREFACE 7 

to the influence of George Sand ; but we cannot 
deny the influence of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and 
of Stendhal ; nevertheless, we belittle the greatness 
of Tolstoy, and the power of his fascination, if 1 
we attribute them to his ideas. The circle of 
ideas in which art moves and has its being is a 
narrow one. It is not in those ideas that his 
might resides, but in his expression of them ; 
in the personal accent, the imprint of the artist, 
the colour and savour of his life. 

Whether Tolstoy's ideas were or were not 
borrowed a matter to be presently considered 
never yet had a voice like to his resounded through- 
out Europe. How else can we explain the thrill of 
emotion which we all of us felt upon hearing that 
psychic music, that harmony for which we had so 
long waited, and of which we felt the need ? In our 
opinion the style counted for nothing. Most of us, 
myself included, made the acquaintance of Melchior 
de Vogue's work on the subject of the Russian 
novel x after we had read the novels of Tolstoy ; 
and his admiration of our hero seemed, after ours, 
a pallid thing. M. de Vogii6 spoke essentially as a 
man of letters pure and simple. But for our part it 
was not enough to admire the presentation of life : 
we lived it ; it was our own. Ours it was by its 
ardent love of life, by its quality of youth ; ours by 
its irony, its disillusion, its pitiless discernment, and 
its haunting sense of mortality. Ours by its dreams 
of brotherly love, of peace among men ; ours by its 
terrible accusation of the lies of civilisation ; ours 
1 Le Roman russe. 



8 PREFACE 

by its realism ; by its mysticism ours ; by its savour 
of nature, its sense of invisible forces, its vertigo in 
the face of the infinite. 

To many of us the novels of Tolstoy were what 
Werther was to an earlier generation : the wonderful 
mirror of our passions, our strength, our weak- 
nesses, of our hopes, our terrors, our discourage- 
ment. We were in no wise anxious to reconcile 
these many contradictions ; still less did we con- 
cern ourselves to imprison this complex, multiple 
mind, full of echoes of the whole wide world, 
within the narrow limits of religious or political 
categories, as have the greater number of those 
who have written of Tolstoy in these latter years : 
incapable of extricating themselves from the con- 
flict of parties, dragging him into the arena of their 
own passions, measuring him by the standards of 
their socialistic or clerical coteries. As if our 
coteries could be the measure of a genius 1 What 
is it to me if Tolstoy is or is not of my party ? 
Shall I ask of what party Shakespeare was, or Dante, 
before I breathe the atmosphere of his magic or 
steep myself in its light ? 

We did not say, as do the critics of to-day, that 
there were two Tolstoys : the Tolstoy of the period 
before the crisis and he of the period after the 
crisis ; that the one was the great artist, while the 
other was not an artist at all. For us there was 
only one Tolstoy, and we loved the whole of him ; 
for we felt, instinctively, that in such souls as his all 
things are bound together and each has its integral 
place. 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

PREFACE . . , 5 

CHAPTER 

I. CHILDHOOD . . . II 

II. BOYHOOD AND YOUTH . . . .21 

III. YOUTH: THE ARMY . . . 3 1 *~ 

IV. EARLY WORK: TALES OF THE CAUCASUS . 37 

V. SEBASTOPOL : WAR AND RELIGION . . 47 
VI. ST. PETERSBURG . . . -59 

j vii. "family happiness" 73 

VIII. MARRIAGE . . . . . 8l 

. / ix. "anna karenin" . . . 97 

X. THE CRISIS ..... 109 

XI. REALITY . . . . .125 



10 CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAOB 

XII. ART AND CONSCIENCE . . . -133 

XIII. SCIENCE AND ART . . 1 43 

XIV. THEORIES OF ART: MUSIC * . 1 63 

XV. ' RESURRECTION " . . . .185 

XVI. RELIGION AND POLITICS . -197 

XVII. OLD AGE . . . . .217 
XVIII. CONCLUSION ..... 235 

INDEX ..... 249 



I 

CHILDHOOD 



\ 



TOLSTOY 

CHAPTER I 

CHILDHOOD 

Our instinct was conscious then of that which 
reason must prove to-day. The task is possible 
now, for the long life has attained its term ; reveal- 
ing itself, unveiled, to the eyes of all, with un- 
equalled candour, unexampled sincerity. To-day 
we are at once arrested by the degree in which 
that life has always remained the same, from the 
beginning to the end, in spite of all the barriers 
which critics have sought to erect here and there 
along its course ; in spite of Tolstoy himself, who, 
like every impassioned mind, was inclined to the 
belief, when he loved, or conceived a faith, that he 
loved or believed for the first time ; that the com- 
mencement of his true life dated from that moment. 
Commencement recommencement ! How often 
his mind was the theatre of the same struggles, the 
same crises ! We cannot speak of the unity of his 
ideas, for no such unity existed ; we can only speak 

13 



14 TOLSTOY 

of the persistence among them of the same diverse 
elements ; sometimes allied, sometimes inimical ; 
more often enemies than allies. Unity is to be 
found neither in the spirit nor the mind of a 
Tolstoy ; it exists only in the internal conflict of 
his passions, in the tragedy of his art and his life. 

In him life and art are one. Never was work 
more intimately mingled with the artist's life ; it 
has, almost constantly, the value of autobiography ; 
it enables us to follow the writer, step by step, from 
the time when he was twenty-five years of age, 
throughout all the contradictory experiences of his 
adventurous career. His Journal, which he com- 
menced before the completion of his twentieth 
year, and continued until his death, 1 together with 
the notes furnished by M. Birukov, 9 completes this 
knowledge, and enable us not only to read almost 
day by day in the history of Tolstoy's conscience, 
but also to reconstitute the world in which his 
genius struck root, and the minds from which his 
own drew sustenance. 

His was a rich inheritance. The Tolstoys and 
the Volkonskys were very ancient families, of the 
greater nobility, claiming descent from Rurik ; 
numbering among their ancestors companions of 
Peter the Great, generals of the Seven Years' War, 

1 With the exception of a few interruptions : one especially 
of considerable length, between 1865 and 1878. 

9 For his remarkable biography of Lton Tolstoi', Vie et 
(Euvre, Mimoires, Souvenirs, Lettres, Extraits du Journal 
intime, Notes et Documents biographiques, riunis, coordonnis et 
annotls par P. Birukov, revised by Leo Tolstoy, translated 
into French from the MS. by J. W. Bienstock. 



CHILDHOOD 15 

heroes of the Napoleonic struggle, Decembrists, 
and political exiles. This inheritance included 
family traditions ; old memories to which Tolstoy 
was indebted for some of the most original types in 
his War and Peace; there was the old Prince 
Bolkonsky, his maternal grandfather, Voltairian, 
despotic, a belated representative of the aristocracy 
of the days of Catherine II.; Prince Nikolas 
Grigorovitch Volkonsky, a cousin of his mother, 
who was wounded at Austerlitz, and, like Prince 
Andrei, was carried off the field of battle under the 
eyes of Napoleon ; his father, who had some of the 
characteristics of Nicolas Rostoff ; * and his mother, 
the Princess Marie, the ugly, charming woman with 
the beautiful eyes, whose goodness illumines the 
pages of War and Peace, 

He scarcely knew his parents. Those delightful 
narratives, Childhood and Youth, have, therefore, 
but little authenticity ; for the writer's mother died 
when he was not yet two years of age. He, there- 
fore, was unable to recall the beloved face which 
the little Nikolas Irtenieff evoked beyond a veil of 
tears : a face with a luminous smile, which radiated 
gladness. . . . 

"Ah ! if in difficult moments I could only 
see that smile, I should not know what sorrow 
is." 2 

Yet she doubtless endowed him with her own 
absolute candour, her indifference to opinion, and 

1 He also fought in the Napoleonic campaigns, and was a 
prisoner in France during the years 1814-15. 

2 Childhood, chap. ii. 



16 TOLSTOY 

her wonderful gift of relating tales of her own 
invention. 

His father he did in some degree remember. 
His was a genial yet ironical spirit ; a sad-eyed 
man who dwelt upon his estates, leading an 
independent, unambitious life. Tolstoy was nine 
years old when he lost him. His death caused him 
"for the first time to understand the bitter truth, 
and filled his soul with despair." l Here was the 
child's earliest encounter with the spectre of terror ; 
and henceforth a portion of his life was to be 
devoted to fighting the phantom, and a portion to 
its celebration, its transfiguration. The traces of 
this agony are marked by a few unforgettable 
touches in the final chapters of his Childhood, where 
his memories are transposed in the narrative of the 
death and burial of his mother. 

Five children were left orphans in the old house 
at Yasnaya Polyana. 2 There Leo Nikolayevitch 
was born, on the 28th of August, 1828, and there, 
eighty-two years later, he was to die. The youngest 
of the five was a girl : that Marie who in later years 

1 Childhood, chap, xxvii. 

a Yasnaya Polyana, the name of which signifies " the open 
glade" (literally, the "light glade"), is a little village to the 
south of Moscow, at a distance of some leagues from Toula, 
in one of the most thoroughly Russian of the provinces. 
" Here the two great regions of Russia," says M. Leroy- 
Beaulieu, " the region of the forests and the agricultural 
region, meet and melt into each other. In the surrounding 
country we meet with no Finns, Tatars, Poles, Jews, or Little 
Russians. The district of Toula lies at the very heart of 
Russia." 



CHILDHOOD 17 

became a religious ; it was with her that Tolstoy 
took refuge in dying, when he fled from home and 
family. Of the four sons, Sergius was charming 
and selfish, " sincere to a degree that I have never 
known equalled " ; Dmitri was passionate, self- 
centred, introspective, and in later years, as a 
student, abandoned himself eagerly to the practices 
of religion ; caring nothing for public opinion ; 
fasting, seeking out the poor, sheltering the infirm ; 
suddenly, with the same quality of violence, plung- 
ing into debauchery ; then, tormented by remorse, 
ransoming a girl whom he had known in a public 
brothel, and receiving her into his home ; finally 
dying of phthisis at the age of twenty-nine. 1 
Nikolas, the eldest, the favourite brother, had in- 
herited his mother's gift of imagination, her power 
of telling stories ; 2 ironical, nervous, and refined ; 
in later years an officer in the Caucasus, where he 
formed the habit of a drunkard ; a man, like his 
brother, full of Christian kindness, living in hovels, 
and sharing with the poor all that he possessed. 
Tourgenev said of him " that he put into practice 
that humble attitude towards life which his brother 
Leo was content to develop in theory." 

The orphans were cared for by two great-hearted 
women, one was their Aunt Tatiana,3 of whom 
Tolstoy said that u she had two virtues : serenity 

x Tolstoy has depicted him in Anna Karenin, as the brother 
of Levine. 

8 He wrote the Diary of a Hunter. 

* In reality she was a distant relative. She had loved 
Tolstoy's father, and was loved by him ; but effaced herself, 
like Sonia in War and Peace. 

2 



18 TOLSTOY 

and love." Her whole life was love ; a devotion 
that never failed. " She made me understand the 
moral pleasure of loving." 

The other was their Aunt Alexandra, who was 
for ever serving others, herself avoiding service, 
dispensing with the help of servants. Her favourite 
occupation was reading the lives of the Saints, or 
conversing with pilgrims or the feeble-minded. Of 
these " innocents " there were several, men and 
women, who lived in the house. One, an old 
woman, a pilgrim, was the godmother of Tolstoy's 
sister. Another, the idiot Gricha, knew only how 
to weep and pray. . . . 

" Gricha, notable Christian 1 So mighty was your 
faith that you felt the approach of God ; so ardent 
was your love that words rushed from your lips, 
words that your reason could not control. And 
how you used to celebrate His splendour, when 
speech failed you, when, all tears, you lay prostrated 
on the ground I " " 

Who can fail to understand the influence, in the 
shaping of Tolstoy, of all these humble souls ? In 
some of them we seem to see an outline, a prophecy, 
of the Tolstoy of later years. Their prayers and 
their affection must have sown the seeds of faith 
in the child's mind ; seeds of which the aged man 
was to reap the harvest. 

With the exception of the idiot Gricha, Tolstoy 

does not speak, in his narrative of Childhood, of 

these humble helpers who assisted in the work of 

building up his mind. But then how clearly we 

' Childhood, chap. xii. 



CHILDHOOD 19 

see it through the medium of the book this soul 
of a little child ; " this pure, loving heart, a ray of 
clear light, which always discovered in others the 
best of their qualities " this more than common 
tenderness 1 Being happy, he ponders on the only 
creature he knows to be unhappy ; he cries at the 
thought, and longs to devote himself to his good. 
He hugs and kisses an ancient horse, begging his 
pardon, because he has hurt him. He is happy in 
loving, even if he is not loved. Already we can see 
the germs of his future genius ; his imagination, so 
vivid that he cries over his own stories ; his brain, 
always busy, always trying to discover of what other 
people think ; his precocious powers of memory x 
and observation ; the attentive eyes, which even in 
the midst of his sorrow scrutinise the faces about 
him, and the authenticity of their sorrow. He tells 
us that at five years of age he felt for the first time 
" that life is not a time of amusement, but a very 
heavy task." 2 

Happily he forgot the discovery. In those days 
he used to soothe his mind with popular tales ; 
those mythical and legendary dreams known in 
Russia as bylines ; stories from the Bible ; above 
all the sublime History of Joseph, which he cited in 
his old age as a model of narrative art : and, finally, 
the Arabian Nights, which at his grandmother's 
house were recited every evening, from the vantage 
of the window-seat, by a blind story-teller. 

1 He professes, in his autobiographical notes (dated 1878), 
to be able to recall the sensations of being swaddled as a baby, 
and of being bathed in a tub. See First Memories. 

2 First Memories. 



II 

BOYHOOD 

AND 
YOUTH 



CHAPTER II 

BOYHOOD AND YOUTH 

He studied at Kazan. 1 He was not a notable 
student. It used to be said of the three brothers 2 : 
" Sergius wants to, and can ; Dmitri wants to, and 
can't ; Leo can't, and doesn't want to." 

He passed through the period which he terms 
" the desert of adolescence " ; a desert of sterile 
sands, blown upon by gales of the burning winds of 
folly. The pages of Boyhood , and in especial those 
of Youth,s are rich in intimate confessions relating 
to these years. 

He was a solitary. His brain was in a condition 

1 From 1842 to 1847. [Science was as yet unorganised ; 
and its teachers, even in Western Europe, had not the courage 
of the facts they taught. Men still sought for an anchor in 
the philosophic systems of the ancients. The theory of evolu- 
tion, put forward at the beginning of the century, had fallen 
into obscurity. Science was dry, dogmatic, uncoordinated, 
insignificant. Hence, perhaps, the contempt for science 
which distinguised Tolstoy throughout his life, and which 
made the later Tolstoy possible. Trans.] 

a Nikolas, five years older than Leo, had completed his 
studies in 1844. 

3 The English translation is entitled Childhood, Boyhood, 
Youth. 



24 TOLSTOY 

of perpetual fever. For a year he was completely 
at sea ; he roamed from one system of philosophy to 
another. As a Stoic, he indulged in self-inflicted 
physical tortures. As an Epicurean he debauched 
himself. Then came a faith in metempsychosis. 
Finally he fell into a condition of nihilism not far 
removed from insanity ; he used to feel that if only 
he could turn round with sufficient rapidity he 
would find himself face to face with nothingness 
. . . He analysed himself continually : 

" I no longer thought of a thing ; I thought of 
what I thought of it." 1 ^ 

This perpetual self-analysis, this mechanism of 
reason turning in the void, remained to him as a 
dangerous habit, which was " often," in his own 
words, "to be detrimental to me in life"; but by 
which his art has profited inexpressibly. 3 

As another result of self-analysis, he had lost all 
his religious convictions ; or such was his belief. 
At sixteen years of age ceased to pray ; he went 
to church no longer ; 3 but his faith was not ex- 
tinguished ; it was only smouldering. 

" Nevertheless, I did believe in something. But 
in what ? I could not say. I still believed in God ; 
or rather I did not deny Him. But in what God ? 
I did not know. Nor did I deny Christ and his 
teaching ; but I could not have said precisely what 
that doctrine was." 4 

1 Youth, xix. 

a Notably in his first volumes in the Tales of Sebastopol. 
s This was the time when he used to read Voltaire, and 
find pleasure in so doing. * Confessions, vol. i. 



BOYHOOD AND YOUTH 25 

From time to time he was obsessed by dreams 
of goodness. He wished to sell his carriage and 
give the money to the poor : to give them the tenth 
part of his fortune ; to live without the help of 
servants, " for they were men like himself." During 
an illness x he wrote certain " Rules of Life." He 
naively assigned himself the duty of " studying 
everything, of mastering all subjects : law, medicine, 
languages, agriculture, history, geography, and 
mathematics ; to attain the highest degree of per- 
fection in music and painting," and so forth. He\ 
had "the conviction that the destiny of man was ay^/ 
process of incessant self-perfection." 

Insensibly, under the stress of a boy's passions, 
of a violent sensuality and a stupendous pride of 
self, 2 this faith in perfection went astray, losing 
its disinterested quality, becoming material and 
practical. If he still wished to perfect his will, his 
body, and his mind, it was in order to conquer 
the world and to enforce its love.3 He wished 
to please. 

To please : it was not an easy ambition. He was 
then of a simian ugliness : the face was long, heavy, 

1 In March and April, 1847. 

3 " All that man does he does out of amour-propre," says 
Nekhludov, in Boyhood. 

In 1853 Tolstoy writes, in his Journal: " My great failing : 
pride. A vast self-love, without justification. ... I am so 
ambitious that if I had to choose between glory and virtue 
(which I love) I am sure I should choose the former." 

3 " I wanted to be known by all, loved by all. I wanted 
every one, at the mere sound of my name, to be struck with 
admiration and gratitude." 



26 TOLSTOY 

brutish ; the hair was cropped close, growing low 
upon the forehead ; the eyes were small, with a hard, 
forbidding glance, deeply sunken in shadowy 
orbits ; the nose was large, the lips were thick and 
protruding, and the ears were enormous. 1 Unable to 
alter this ugliness, which even as a child had sub- 
jected him to fits of despair, 3 he pretended to a 
realisation of the ideal man of the world, I'homme 
comme il faut.3 This ideal led him to do as did 
other " men of the world " : to gamble, run foolishly 
into debt, and to live a completely dissipated exist- 
ences 

One quality always came to his salvation : his 
absolute sincerity. 

"Do you know why I like you better than the 
others ?" says Nekhludov to his friend. " You have 
a precious and surprising quality : candour." 

M Yes, I am always saying things which I am 
ashamed to own even to myself."5 

In his wildest moments he judges himself with a 
pitiless insight. 

1 According to a portrait dated 1848, in which year he 
attained his twentieth year. 

3 " I thought there would be no happiness on earth for any 
one who had so large a nose, so thick lips, and such small 
eyes." 

3 " I divided humanity into three classes : the ' correct,' 
or ' smart,' who alone were worthy of esteem ; those who 
were not ' correct,' who deserved only contempt and hatred ; 
and the people, the plebs, who simply did not exist." 
(Youth, xxxi.) 

4 Especially during a period spent in St. Petersburg, 
1847-48. 

s Boyhood. 



BOYHOOD AND YOUTH 27 

" I am living an utterly bestial life," he writes in 
his Journal. " I am as low as one can fall." Then, 
with his mania for analysis, he notes minutely the 
causes of his errors : 

" i. Indecision or lack of energy. 2. Self-de- 
ception. 3. Insolence. 4. False modesty. 5. Ill- 
temper. 6. Licentiousness. 7. Spirit of imitation. 
8. Versatility. 9. Lack of reflection." 

While still a student he was applying this inde- 
pendence of judgment to the criticism of social con- 
ventions and intellectual superstitions. He scoffed 
at the official science of the University ; denied the 
least importance to historical studies, and was put 
under arrest for his audacity of thought. At this 
period he discovered Rousseau, reading his Confessions 
and Emile. The discovery affected him like a 
mental thunderbolt. 

" I made him an object of religious worship. I 
wore a medallion portrait of him hung round my 
neck, as though it were a holy image." " 

His first essays in philosophy took the form of 
commentaries on Rousseau (1846-47). 

In the end, however, disgusted with the Univer- 
sity and with " smartness," he returned to Yasnaya 
Polyana, to bury himself in the country (1847-51) ; 
where he once more came into touch with the 
people. He professed to come to their assistance, 
as their benefactor and their teacher. His experi- 
ences of this period have been related in one of his 
earliest books, A Russian Proprietor (A Landlord's 

1 Conversations with M. Paul Boyer (Le Temps), August 28, 
1901. 



28 TOLSTOY 

Morning) (1852) ; a remarkable novel, whose hero, 
Prince Nekhludov, 1 is Tolstoy in disguise. 

Nekhludov is twenty years old. He has left the 
University to devote himself to his peasants. He 
has been labouring for a year to do them good. 
In the course of a visit to the village we see him 
striving against jeering indifference, rooted distrust, 
routine, apathy, vice, and ingratitude. All his 
efforts are in vain. He returns indoors discouraged, 
and muses on his dreams of a year ago ; his 
generous enthusiasm, his " idea that love and good- 
ness were one with happiness and truth : the only 
happiness and the only truth possible in this world." 
He feels himself defeated. He is weary and 
ashamed. 

u Seated before the piano, his hand unconsciously 
moved upon the keys. A chord sounded ; then 
a second, then a third. . . . He began to play. 
The chords were not always perfect in rhythm ; 
they were often obvious to the point of banality ; 
they did not reveal any talent for music ; but they 
gave him a melancholy, indefinable sense of plea- 
sure. At each change of key he awaited, with a 
flutter of the heart, for what was about to follow ; 

1 Nekhludov figures also in Boyhood and Youth (1854), ln -A 
Brush with the Enemy (1856) ; the Diary of a Sportsman (1856) ; 
Lucerne (1857) ; and Resurrection (1899). We must remember 
that different characters appear under this one name. 
Tolstoy has not always given Nekhludov the same physical 
aspect ; and the latter commits suicide at the end of the 
Diary of a Sportsman. These different Nekhludovs are various 
aspects of Tolstoy, endowed with his worst and his best 
characteristics. 



BOYHOOD AND YOUTH 29 

his imagination vaguely supplementing the defi- 
ciencies of the actual sound. He heard a choir, 
an orchestra . . . and his keenest pleasure arose 
from the enforced activity of his imagination, which 
brought before him, without logical connection, but 
with astonishing clearness, the most varied scenes 
and images of the past and the future. . . ." 

Once more he sees the moujiks vicious, dis- 
trustful, lying, idle, obstinate, contrary, with whom 
he has lately been speaking ; but this time he sees 
them with all their good qualities and without their 
vices ; he sees into their hearts with the intuition of 
love ; he sees therein their patience, their resignation 
to the fate which is crushing them ; their forgive- 
ness of wrongs, their family affection, and the 
causes of their pious, mechanical attachment to the 
past. He recalls their days of honest labour, 
healthy and fatiguing. . . . 

" i It is beautiful/ he murmurs . . . ' Why am I 
not one of these V " 

The entire Tolstoy is already contained in the 
hero of this first novel ; 2 his piercing vision and his 
persistent illusions. He observes men and women 
with an impeccable realism ; but no sooner does he 
close his eyes than his dreams resume their sway ; 
his dreams and his love of mankind. 

1 A Russian Proprietor. 

3 Contemporary with Childhood. 



Ill 

YOUTH: 
THE ARMY 



CHAPTER III 

YOUTH : THE ARMY 

Tolstoy, in the year 1850, was not as patient as 
Nekhludov. Yasnaya Polyana had disillusioned and 
disappointed him. He was as weary of the people 
as he was of the world of fashion ; his attitude as 
benefactor wearied him ; he could bear it no more. 
Moreover, he was harassed by creditors. In 1851 
he escaped to the Caucasus ; to the army in which 
his brother Nikolas was already an officer. 

He had hardly arrived, hardly tasted the quiet of 
the mountains, before he was once more master of 
himself ; before he had recovered his God. 

"Last night 1 I hardly slept. I began to pray to 
God. I cannot possibly express the sweetness of 
the feeling that came to me when I prayed. I 
recited the customary prayers ; but I went on pray- 
ing for a long time. I felt the desire of something 
very great, very beautiful. . . . What ? I cannot 
say what. I wanted to be one with the Infinite 
Being : to be dissolved, comprehended, in Him. 
I begged Him to forgive me my trespasses. . . . 

1 The nth of June, 1851, in the fortified camp of Stari- 
Iourt, in the Caucasus. 

3 33 



34 TOLSTOY 

But no, I did not beg Him ; I felt that He did 
pardon me, since He granted me that moment 
of wonderful joy. I was praying, yet at the same 
time I felt that I could not, dared not pray. I 
thanked Him, not in words, but in thought. . . . 
Scarcely an hour had passed, and I was listening 
to the voice of vice. I fell asleep dreaming of 
glory, of women : it was stronger than I. Never 
mind 1 I thank God for that moment of happiness : 
for showing me my pettiness and my greatness. I 
want to pray, but I do not know how ; I want to 
understand, but I dare not. I abandon myself to 
Thy will 1 " * 

The flesh was not conquered ; not then, nor ever ; 
the struggle between God and the passions of man 
continued in the silence of his heart. Tolstoy 
speaks in his Journal of the three demons which 
were devouring him : 

i. The passion for gambling. Possible struggle. 

2. Sensuality. Struggle very difficult. 

3. Vanity. The most terrible of all. 

At the very moment when he was dreaming of 
living for others and of sacrificing himself, volup- 
tuous or futile thoughts would assail him : the image 
of some Cossack woman, or " the despair he would 
feel if his moustache were higher on one side than 
the other." " No matter 1 " God was there ; He 
would not forsake him. Even the effervescence of 
the struggle was fruitful : all the forces of life were 
exalted thereby. 

"I think the idea of making a journey to the 
Journal. 



YOUTH: THE ARMY 35 

Caucasus, however frivolous at the time of concep- 
tion, was inspired in me from above. God's hand 
has guided me. I never cease to thank Him. I feel 
that I have become better here ; and I am firmly 
convinced that whatever happens to me can only be 
for my good, since it is God Himself who has 
wished it. . . ." x 

It is the song of gratitude of the earth in spring. 
Earth covers herself with flowers ; all is well, all is 
beautiful. In 1852 the genius of Tolstoy produces 
its earliest flowers : Childhood, The Russian Pro- 
prietor, The Invasion, Boyhood; and he thanks the 
Spirit of life who has made him fruitful. 3 

1 Letter to his Aunt Tatiana, January, 1852. 

A portrait dated 1851 already shows the change which is 
being accomplished in his mind. The head is raised ; the 
expression is somewhat brighter ; the cavities of the orbits are 
less in shadow ; the eyes themselves still retain their fixed 
severity of look, and the open mouth, shadowed by a growing 
moustache, is gloomy and sullen ; there is still a quality of 
defiant pride, but far more youth. 



IV 

EARLY WORK: 
TALES OF 
THE CAUCASUS 



CHAPTER IV 

EARLY WORK : TALES OF THE CAUCASUS 

The Story of my Childhood was commenced in 
the autumn of 185 1, at Tiflis ; it was finished at 
Piatigorsk in the Caucasus, on the 2nd of July, 1852. 
It is curious to note that while in the midst of that 
nature by which he was so intoxicated, while leading 
a life absolutely novel, in the midst of the stirring 
risks of warfare, occupied in the discovery of a 
world of unfamiliar characters and passions, Tolstoy 
should have returned, in this his first work, to 
the memories of his past life. But Childhood was 
written during a period of illness, when his military 
activity was suddenly arrested. During the long 
leisure of a convalescence, while alone and suffering, 
his state of mind inclined to the sentimental ; 3 the 
past unrolled itself before his eyes at a time when he 
felt for it a certain tenderness. After the exhaust- 
ing tension of the last few unprofitable years, 
it was comforting to live again in thought the 

1 Published in English as part of Childhood, Boyhood, Youth. 

His letters of this period to his Aunt Tatiana are full of 
tears and of sentimentality. He was, as he says, Liova-riova, 
" Leo the Sniveller " (January 6, 1852). 



40 TOLSTOY 

" marvellous, innocent, joyous, poetic period" of 
early childhood ; to reconstruct for himself "the 
heart of a child, good, sensitive, and capable of 
love." With the ardour of youth and its illimitable 
projects, with the cyclic character of his poetic 
imagination, which rarely conceived an isolated 
subject, and whose great romances are only the 
links in a long historic chain, the fragments of 
enormous conceptions which he was never able 
to execute, 1 Tolstoy at this moment regarded his 
narrative of Childhood as merely the opening 
chapters of a History of Four Periods, which was to 
include his life in the Caucasus, and was in all 
probability to have terminated in the revelation 
of God by Nature. 

In later years Tolstoy spoke with great severity of 
his Childhood, to which he owed some part of his 
popularity. 

"It is so bad," he remarked to M. Birukov : "it is 
written with so little literary conscience 1 . . . There 
is nothing to be got from it." 

He was alone in this opinion. The manuscript 
was sent, without the author's name, to the great 
Russian review, the Sovremennik (Contemporary) ; 
it was published immediately (September 6, 1852), 
and achieved a general success ; a success confirmed 
by the public of every country in Europe. Yet in 

1 The Russian Proprietor (A Landlord's Morning) is the 
fragment of a projected Romance of a Russian Landowner. 
The Cossacks forms the first portion of a great romance of the 
Caucasus. In the author's eyes the huge War and Peace was 
only a sort of preface to a contemporary epic, of which The 
Decembrists was to have been the nucleus. 



EARLY WORK 41 

spite of its poetic charm, its delicacy of touch and 
emotion, we can understand that it may have 
displeased the Tolstoy of later years. 

It displeased him for the very reasons by which it 
pleased others. We must admit it frankly : except 
in the recording of certain provincial types, and in 
a restricted number of passages which are remark- 
able for their religious feeling or for the realistic 
treatment of emotion, 1 the personality of Tolstoy is 
barely in evidence. 

A tender, gentle sentimentality prevails from 
cover to cover ; a quality which was always after- 
wards antipathetic to Tolstoy, and one which he 
sedulously excluded from his other romances. We 
recognise it ; these tears, this sentimentality came 
from Dickens, who was one of Tolstoy's favourite 
authors between his fourteenth and his twenty-first 
year. Tolstoy notes in his Journal: "Dickens: 
David Copperfield. Influence considerable/' He 
read the book again in the Caucasus. 

Two other influences, to which he himself 
confesses, were Sterne and Toppfer. " I was 
then," he says, " under their inspiration." 2 

Who would have thought that the Nouvelles 
Genevoises would be the first model of the author 
of War and Peace f Yet knowing this to be a 
fact, we discern in Tolstoy's Childhood the same 
bantering, affected geniality, transplanted to the 
soil of a more aristocratic nature. So we see that 

1 See the passage relating to the pilgrim Gricha, or to the 
death of his mother. 
Letter to Birukov. 



42 TOLSTOY 

the readers of his earliest efforts found the writer's 
countenance familiar. It was not long, however, 
before his own personality found self-expression. 
His Boyhood {Adolescence), though less pure and less 
perfect than Childhood, exhibits a more orginal power 
of psychology, a keen feeling for nature, and a mind 
full of distress and conflict, which Dickens or 
Toppfer would have been at a loss to express. In 
the Russian Proprietor (October, 1852 ") Tolstoy's 
character appeared sharply defined, marked by 
his fearless sincerity and his faith in love. Among 
the remarkable portraits of peasants which he has 
painted in this novel, we find an early sketch of 
one of the finest conceptions of his Popular Tales : 
the old man with the beehives ; a the little old man 
under the birch-tree, his hands outstretched, his 
eyes raised, his bald head shining in the sun, and 
all around him the bees, touched with gold, never 
stinging him, forming a halo. . . . But the truly 
typical works of this period are those which 
directly register his present emotions : namely, the 
novels of the Caucasus. The first, The Invasion 
(finished in December, 1852), impresses the reader 
deeply by the magnificence of its landscapes : a 
sunrise amidst the mountains, on the bank of a 
river ; a wonderful night-piece, with sounds and 
shadows noted with a striking intensity ; and the 
return in the evening, while the distant snowy 
peaks disappear in the violet haze, and the clear 
voices of the regimental singers rise and fall in the 

' Completed only in 1855-56. 
The Two Old Men (1885). 



EARLY WORK 43 

transparent air. Many of the types of War and 
Peace are here drawn to the life : Captain Khlopoff, 
the true hero, who by no means fights because he 
likes fighting, but because it is his duty ; a man with 
"one of those truly Russian faces, placid and simple, 
and eyes into which it is easy and agreeable to gaze." 

Heavy, awkward, a trifle ridiculous, indifferent 
to his surroundings, he alone is unchanged in 
battle, where all the rest are changed ; " he is 
exactly as we have seen him always : with the 
same quiet movements, the same level voice, the 
same expression of simplicity on his heavy, simple 
face." Next comes the lieutenant who imitates 
the heroes of Lermontov ; a most kindly, affec- 
tionate boy, who professes the utmost ferocity. 
Then comes the poor little subaltern, delighted 
at the idea of his first action, brimming over with 
affection, ready to fall on his comrade's neck ; 
a laughable, adorable boy, who, like Petia Rostoff, 
contrives to get stupidly killed. In the centre of 
the picture is the figure of Tolstoy, the observer, 
who is mentally aloof from his comrades, and 
already utters his cry of protest against warfare : 

"Is it impossible, then, for men to live in peace, 
in this world so full of beauty, under this im- 
measurable starry sky ? How is it they are able, 
here, to retain their feelings of hostility and ven- 
geance, and the lust of destroying their fellows ? 
All there is of evil in the human heart ought to dis- 
appear at the touch of nature, that most immediate 
expression of the beautiful and the good." " 
1 The Invasion. 



44 TOLSTOY 

Other tales of the Caucasus were to follow which 
were observed at this time, though not written 
until a later period. In 1854-55. The Woodcutters 
was written ; a book notable for its exact and 
rather frigid realism ; full of curious records of 
Russian soldier-psychology notes to be made use 
of in the future. In 1856 appeared A Brush with 
the Enemy, in which there is a man of the world, 
a degraded non-commissioned officer, a wreck, a 
coward, a drunkard and a liar, who cannot support 
the idea of being slaughtered like one of the 
common soldiers he despises, the least of whom 
is worth a hundred of himself. 

Above all these works, as the summit, so to 
speak, of this first mountain range, rises one of 
the most beautiful lyric romances that ever fell 
from Tolstoy's pen : the song of his youth, the 
\ poem of the Caucasus, The Cossacks. 1 The splen- 
dour of the snowy mountains displaying their 
noble lines against the luminous sky fills the 
whole work with its music. The book is unique, 
for it belongs to the flowering-time of genius, " the 
omnipotent god of youth," as Tolstoy says, M that 
rapture which never returns." What a spring-tide 
torrent 1 What an overflow of love ! 

" ' I love I love so much 1 . . . How brave ! 
How good I' he repeated: and he felt as though 
he must weep. Why ? Who was brave, and whom 
did he love ? That he did not precisely know." 3 

1 Although completed much later in i860 and appearing 
only in 1863 the bulk of this volume was of this period. 
a The Cossacks. 



EARLY WORK 45 

This intoxication of the heart flows on, un- 
checked. Olenin, the hero, who has come to 
the Caucasus, as Tolstoy came, to steep himself in 
nature, in the life of adventure, becomes enamoured 
of a young Cossack girl, and abandons himself to 
the medley of his contradictory aspirations. At 
one moment he believes that "happiness is to 
live for others, to sacrifice oneself," at another, 
that " self-sacrifice is only stupidity " ; finally he 
is inclined to believe, with Erochta, the old Cossack, 
that "everything is precious. God has made 
everything for the delight of man. Nothing is 
a sin. To amuse oneself with a handsome girl is 
not a sin : it is only health." But what need to 
think at all ? It is enough to live. Life is all good, 
all happiness ; life is all-powerful and universal ; 
life is God. An ardent naturalism uplifts and 
consumes his soul. Lost in the forest, amidst 
"the wildness of the woods, the multitude of 
birds and animals, the clouds of midges in the 
dusky green, in the warm, fragrant air, amidst the 
little runlets of water which trickle everywhere 
beneath the boughs " ; a few paces from the 
ambushes of the enemy, Olenin is " seized sud- 
denly by such a sense of causeless happiness that 
in obedience to childish habit he crossed himself 
and began to give thanks to somebody." Like a 
Hindu fakir, he rejoices to tell himself that he is 
alone and lost in this maelstrom of aspiring life : 
that myriads of invisible beings, hidden on every 
hand, are that moment hunting him to death ; 
that these thousands of little insects humming 
around him are calling : 



46 TOLSTOY 

"'Here, brothers, here ! Here is some one to bite !"' 

And it became obvious to him that he was no 
longer a Russian gentleman, in Moscow society, 
but simply a creature like the midge, the pheasant, 
the stag : like those which were living and prowl- 
ing about him at that moment. 

" Like them, I shall live, I shall die. And the 
grass will grow above me. . . ." 

And his heart is full of happiness. 

Tolstoy lives through this hour of youth in 
a delirium of vitality and the love of life. He 
embraces Nature, and sinks himself in her being. 
To her he pours forth and exalts his griefs, his 
joys, and his loves; in her he lulls them to sleep. 
Yet this romantic intoxication never veils the 
lucidity of his perceptions. Nowhere has he 
painted landscape with a greater power than in 
this fervent poem ; nowhere has he depicted the 
type with greater truth. The contrast of nature 
with the world of men, which forms the basis of 
the book; and which through all Tolstoy's life is 
to prove one of his favourite themes, and an article 
of his Credo, has already inspired him, the better 
to castigate the world, with something of the 
bitterness to be heard in the Kreutzer Sonata. 1 But 
for those who love him he is no less truly himself ; 
and the creatures of nature, the beautiful Cossack 
girl and her friends, are seen under a searching 
light, with their egoism, their cupidity, their 
venality, and all their vices. 

An exceptional occasion was about to offer 
itself for the exercise of this heroic veracity. 

1 For example, see Oleniln's letter to his friends in Russia. 



SEBASTOPOLi 
WAR AND 
RELIGION 



CHAPTER V 

SEBASTOPOL : WAR AND RELIGION 

In November, 1853, war was declared upon Turkey. 
Tolstoy obtained an appointment to the army of 
Roumania ; he was transferred to the army of the 
Crimea, and on November 7, 1854, he arrived in 
Sebastopol. He was burning with enthusiasm 
and patriotic faith. He went about his duties 
courageously, and was often in danger, in especial 
throughout the April and May of 1855, when he 
served on every alternate day in the battery of 
of the 4th bastion. 

Living for months in a perpetual tremor and 
exaltation, face to face with death, his religious 
mysticism revived. He became familiar with God. 
In April, 1855, he noted in his diary a prayer to 
God, thanking Him for His protection in danger 
and beseeching Him to continue it, "so that I 
may achieve the glorious and eternal end of life, 
of which I am still ignorant, although I feel a 
presentiment of it." Already this object of his 
life was not art, but religion. On March 5, 1855, 
he wrote : 

" I have been led to conceive a great idea, to 
4 49 



50 TOLSTOY 

whose realisation I feel capable of devoting my 
whole life. This idea is the foundation of a new 
religion ; the religion of the Christ, but purified 
of dogmas and mysteries. ... To act with a 
clear conscience, in order to unite men by means 
of religion." J 

This was to be the programme of his old age. 

However, to distract himself from the spectacles 
which surrounded him, he began once more to 
write. How could he, amidst that hail of lead, 
find the necessary freedom of mind for the writing 
of the third part of his memories : Youth f The 
book is chaotic ; and we may attribute to the 
conditions of its production a quality of disorder, 
and at times a certain dryness of abstract analysis, 
which is increased by divisions and subdivisions 
after the manner of Stendhal. 3 Yet we admire 
his calm penetration of the mist of dreams and 
inchoate ideas which crowd a young brain. His 
work is extraordinarily true to itself, and at 
moments what poetic freshness ! as in the vivid 
picture of springtime In the city, or the tale of 
the confession, and the journey to the convent, on 

1 Journal. 

3 We notice this manner also in The Woodcutters, which was 
completed at the same period. For example : " There are 
three kinds of love : i. aesthetic love ; 2. devoted love ; 
3. active love," &c. (Youth). "There are three kinds of 
soldiers : 1. the docile and subordinate ; 2. the authoritative ; 
3. the boasters who themselves are subdivided into : 
(a) The docile who are cool and lethargic ; (6) those who 
are earnestly docile ; (c) docile soldiers who drink," &c. 
(The Woodcutters). 



SEBASTOPOL: WAR AND RELIGION 51 

account of the forgotten sin I An impassioned pan- 
theism lends to certain pages a lyric beauty, whose 
accents recall the tales of the Caucasus. For example, 
this description of an evening in the spring : 

" The calm splendour of the shining crescent ; 
the gleaming fish-pond ; the ancient birch-trees, 
whose long-tressed boughs were on one side 
silvered by the moonlight, while on the other 
they covered the path and the bushes with their 
black shadows ; the cry of a quail beyond the 
pond ; the barely perceptible sound of two 
ancient trees which grazed one another ; the 
humming of the mosquitoes ; the fall of an apple 
on the dry leaves ; and the frogs leaping up to the 
steps of the terrace, their backs gleaming greenish 
under a ray of moonlight. . . . The moon is 
mounting ; suspended in the limpid sky, she fills 
all space with her light ; the splendour of the 
moonlit water grows yet more brilliant, the shadows 
grow blacker, the light more transparent. . . . 
And to me, an obscure and earthy creature, already 
soiled with every human passion, but endowed 
with all the stupendous power of love, it seemed 
at that moment that all nature, the moon, and I 
myself were one and the same." 1 

But the present reality, potent and imperious, 
spoke more loudly than the dreams of the past. 
Youth remained unfinished ; and Captain Count 
Tolstoy, behind the plating of his bastion, amid 
the rumbling of the bombardment, or in the midst 
of his company, observed the dying and the living, 
1 Youth, xxxii. 



52 TOLSTOY 

and recorded their miseries and his own, in his 
unforgettable narratives of Sebastopol. 

These three narratives Sebastopol in December, 
1854, Sebastopol in May, 1855, Sebastopol in August, 
1855 are generally confounded with one another ; 
but in reality they present many points of difference. 
The second in particular, in point both of feeling 
and of art, is greatly superior to the others. The 
others are dominated by patriotism ; the second is 
charged with implacable truth. 

It is said that after reading the first narrative 1 
the Tsarina wept, and the Tsar, moved by admira- 
tion, commanded that the story should be translated 
into French, and the author sent out of danger. 
We can readily believe it. Nothing in these pages 
but exalts warfare and the fatherland. Tolstoy 
had just arrived ; his enthusiasm was intact ; he 
was afloat on a tide of heroism. As yet he could 
see in the defenders of Sebastopol neither ambition 
nor vanity, nor any unworthy feeling. For him 
the war was a sublime epic ; its heroes were 
" worthy of Greece." On the other hand, these 
notes exhibit no effort of the imagination, no 
attempt at objective representation. The writer 
strolls through the city ; he sees with the utmost 
lucidity, but relates what he sees in a form which 
is wanting in freedom : "You see . . . you enter . . . 
you notice. . . ." This is first-class reporting ; 
rich in admirable impressions. 

Very different is the second scene : Sebastopol in 
May, 1855. In the opening lines we read : 

1 Sent to the review Sovremennik and immediately published. 



SEBASTOPOL: WAR AND RELIGION 53 

"Here the self-love, the vanity of thousands of 
human beings is in conflict, or appeased in 
death. . . ." 

And further on : 

"And as there were many men, so also were 
there many forms of vanity. . . . Vanity, vanity, 
everywhere vanity, even at the door of the tomb ! 
It is the peculiar malady of our century. . . . 
Why do the Homers and Shakespeares speak of 
love, of glory, and of suffering, and why is the 
literature of our century nothing but the inter- 
minable history of snobs and egotists ? " 

The narrative, which is no longer a simple 
narrative on the part of the author, but one which 
sets before us men and their passions, reveals 
that which is concealed by the mask of heroism. 
Tolstoy's clear, disillusioned gaze plumbs to the 
depths the hearts of his companions in arms ; 
in them, as in himself, he reads pride, fear, 
and the comedy of those who continue to play 
at life though rubbing shoulders with death. 
Fear especially is avowed, stripped of its veils, 
and shown in all its nakedness. These nervous 
crises, 1 this obsession of death, are analysed with 
a terrible sincerity that knows neither shame 
nor pity. It was at Sebastopol that Tolstoy 

1 Tolstoy refers to them again at a much later date, in his 
Conversations with his friend Teneromo. He tells him of a 
crisis of terror which assailed him one night when he was 
lying down in the " lodgement " dug out of the body of the 
rampart, under the protective plating. This Episode of the 
Siege of Sebastopol will be found in the volume entitled The 
Revolutionaries, 



54 TOLSTOY 

learned to eschew sentimentalism, u that vague, 
feminine, whimpering passion," as he came dis- 
dainfully to term it ; and his genius for analysis, 
the instinct for which awoke, as we saw, in the 
later years of his boyhood, and which was at 
times to assume a quality almost morbid, 1 never 
attained to a more hypnotic and poignant intensity 
than in the narrative of the death of Praskhoukhin. 
Two whole pages are devoted to the description 
of all that passed in the mind of the unhappy 
man during the second following upon the fall 
of the shell, while the fuse was hissing towards 
explosion ; and one page deals with all that 
passed before him after it exploded, when "he 
was killed on the spot by a fragment which 
struck him full in the chest." 

As in the intervals of a drama we hear the 
occasional music of the orchestra, so these scenes 
of battle are interrupted by wide glimpses of nature ; 
deep perspectives of light ; the symphony of the 
day dawning upon the splendid landscape, in the 
midst of which thousands are agonising. Tolstoy 
the Christian, forgetting the patriotism of his first 
narrative, curses this impious war : 

"And these men, Christians, who profess the 

* Droujinine, a little later, wrote him a friendly letter in 
which he sought to put him on his guard against this danger : 
" You have a tendency to an excessive minuteness of analysis ; 
it may become a serious fault. Sometimes you seem on the 
point of saying that so-and-so's calf indicated a desire to 
travel in the Indies. . . . You must restrain this tendency : 
but do not for the world suppress it." (Letter dated 1856 
cited by P. Birukov.) 



8EBAST0P0L: WAR AND RELIGION 55 

same great law of love and of sacrifice, do not, 
when they perceive what they have done, fall 
upon their knees repentant, before Him who in 
giving them life set within the heart of each, 
together with the fear of death, the love of the 
good and the beautiful. They do not embrace 
as brothers, with tears of joy and happiness ! M 

As he was completing this novel a work that 
has a quality of bitterness which, hitherto, none 
of his work had betrayed Tolstoy was seized 
with doubt. Had he done wrong to speak ? 

"A painful doubt assails me. Perhaps these 
things should not have been said. Perhaps what 
I am telling is one of those mischievous truths 
which, unconsciously hidden in the mind of each 
one of us, should not be expressed lest they 
become harmful, like the lees that we must not 
stir lest we spoil the wine. If so, when is the 
expression of evil to be avoided ? When is the 
expression of goodness to be imitated ? Who 
is the malefactor and who is the hero ? All are 
good and all are evil. . . ." 

But he proudly regains his poise : " The pro- 
tagonist of my novel, whom I love with all the 
strength of my soul, whom I try to present in 
all her beauty, who always was, is, and shall be 
beautiful, is Truth." 

After reading these pages 1 Nekrasov, the editor 
of the review Sovremennik, wrote to Tolstoy : 

"That is precisely what Russian society needs 
to-day : the truth, the truth, of which, since the 
1 Mutilated by the censor. 



66 TOLSTOY 

death of Gogol, so little has remained in Russian 
letters. . . . This truth which you bring to our 
art is something quite novel with us. I have 
only one fear : lest the times, and the cowardice 
of life, the deafness and dumbness of all that 
surrounds us, may make of you what it has made 
of most of us lest it may kill the energy in you." x 

Nothing of the kind was to be feared. The 
times, which waste the energies of ordinary men, 
only tempered those of Tolstoy. Yet for a moment 
the trials of his country and the capture of 
Sebastopol aroused a feeling of regret for his 
perhaps too unfeeling frankness, together with 
a feeling of sorrowful affection. 

In his third narrative Sebastopol in August, 
1855 while describing a group of officers playing 
cards and quarrelling, he interrupts himself to 
say : 

"But let us drop the curtain quickly over this 
picture. To-morrow perhaps to-day each of 
these men will go cheerfully to meet his death. 
In the depths of the soul of each there smoulders 
the spark of nobility which will make him a hero." 

Although this shame detracts in no wise from 
the forcefulness and realism of the narrative, the 
choice of characters shows plainly enough where 
lie the sympathies of the writer. The epic of 
Malakoff and its heroic fall is told as affecting two 
rare and touching figures : two brothers, of whom 
the elder, Kozeltoff, has some of the characteristics 
of Tolstoy. Who can forget the younger, the ensign 
1 September 2, 1855. 



SEBASTOPOL: WAR AND RELIGION 57 

Volodya, timid and enthusiastic, with his feverish 
monologues, his dreams, his tears ? tears that rise 
to his eyes for a mere nothing ; tears of tender- 
ness, tears of humiliation his fear during the first 
hours passed in the bastion (the poor boy is still 
afraid of the dark, and covers his head with his 
cloak when he goes to bed) ; the oppression caused 
by the feeling of his own solitude and the in- 
difference of others ; then, when the hour arrives, 
his joy in danger. He belongs to the group of 
poetic figures of youth (of whom are Petia in War 
and Peace, and the sub-lieutenant in The Invasion), 
who, their hearts full of affection, make war with 
laughter on their lips, and are broken suddenly, 
uncomprehending, on the wheel of death. The 
two brothers fall wounded, both on the same 
day the last day of the defence. The novel ends 
with these lines, in which we hear the muttering 
of a patriotic anger : 

" The army was leaving the town ; and each 
soldier, as he looked upon deserted Sebastopol, 
sighed, with an inexpressible bitterness in his 
heart, and shook his fist in the direction of the 
enemy." x 

1 In 1889, when writing a preface to Memories of Sebastopol, 
by an Officer of Artillery (A. J. Erchoff), Tolstoy returned in 
fancy to these scenes. Every heroic memory had disappeared. 
He could no longer remember anything but the fear which 
lasted for seven months the double fear : the fear of death 
and the fear of shame and the horrible moral torture. All 
the exploits of the siege reduced themselves, for him, to this : 
he had been " flesh for cannon." 



VI 

ST. PETERSBURG 



CHAPTER VI 

ST. PETERSBURG 

When, once issued from this hell, where for a year 
he had touched the extreme of the passions, vanities, 
and sorrows of humanity, Tolstoy found himself, in 
November, 1855, amidst the men of letters of St. 
Petersburg, they inspired him with a feeling of dis- 
dain and disillusion. They seemed to him entirely 
mean, ill-natured, and untruthful. These men, who 
appeared in the distance to wear the halo of art 
even Tourgenev, whom he had admired, and to 
whom he had but lately dedicated The Woodcutters 
even he, seen close at hand, had bitterly disappointed 
him. A portrait of 1856 represents him in the midst 
of them : Tourgenev, Gontcharov, Ostrovsky,Grigoro- 
vitch, Droujinine. He strikes one, in the free-and- 
easy atmosphere of the others, by reason of his hard, 
ascetic air, his bony head, his lined cheeks, his rigidly 
folded arms. Standing upright, in uniform, behind 
these men of letters, he has the appearance, as Suares 
has wittily said, "rather of mounting guard over 
these gentry than of making one of their company ; 



62 TOLSTOY 

as though he were ready to march them back to 
gaol."' 

Yet they all gathered about their young colleague, 
who came to them with the twofold glory of the 
writer and the hero of Sebastopol. Tourgenev, who 
had "wept and shouted ' Hurrah V" while reading 
the pages of Sebastopol, held out a brotherly hand. 
But the two men could not understand one another. 
Although both saw the world with the same clear 
vision, they mingled with that vision the hues of 
their inimical minds ; the one, ironic, resonant, 
amorous, disillusioned, a devotee of beauty ; the 
other proud, violent tormented with moral ideas, 
pregnant with a hidden God. 

What Tolstoy could never forgive in these literary 
men was that they believed themselves an elect, 
superior caste ; the crown of humanity. Into his 
antipathy for them there entered a good deal of the 
pride of the great noble and the officer who con- 
descendingly mingles with liberal and middle-class 
scribblers. 2 It was also a characteristic of his he 
himself knew it to " oppose instinctively all trains 
of reasoning, all conclusions, which were generally 
admitted." 3 A distrust of mankind, a latent con- 

1 Suares : Tolstoi, edition of the Union pour I' Action morale, 
1899 (reprinted, in the Cahiers dc la Quinzaine, under the 
title Tolstoi vivant). 

1 Tourgenev complained, in a conversation, of " this stupid 
nobleman's pride, his bragging Junkerdom." 

3 "A trait of my character, it may be good or ill, but it is 
one which was always peculiar to me, is that in spite of my- 
self I always used to resist external epidemic influences .... I 
had a hatred of the general tendency." (Letter to P. Birukov.) 



ST. PETERSBURG 63 

tempt for human reason, made him always on the 
alert to discover deception in himself or others. 

" He never believed in the sincerity of any one. 
All moral exhilaration seemed false to him ; and 
he had a way of fixing, with that extraordinarily 
piercing gaze of his, the man whom he suspected 
was not telling the truth." l " How he used to listen ! 
How he used to gaze at those who spoke to him, 
from the very depths of his grey eyes, deeply 
sunken in their orbits 1 With what irony his lips 
were pressed together 1 " 2 

"Tourgenev used to say that he had never ex- 
perienced anything more painful than this piercing 
gaze, which, together with two or three words of 
envenomed observation, was capable of infuriating 
anybody." 3 

At their first meetings violent scenes occurred 
between Tolstoy and Tourgenev. When at a dis- 
tance they cooled down and tried to do one another 
justice. But as time went on Tolstoy's dislike of 
his literary surroundings grew deeper. He could 
not forgive these artists for the combination of 
their depraved life and their moral pretensions. 

" I acquired the conviction that nearly all were 
immoral men, unsound, without character, greatly 
inferior to those I had met in my Bohemian military 
life. And they were sure of themselves and self- 
content, as men might be who were absolutely 
sound. They disgusted me." 4 

1 Tourgenev. a Grigorovitch. 

3 Eugene Gardine : Souvenirs sur Tourgeniev, 1883. See 
Vie et (Euvre de Tolstoi, by Birukov. Confessions. 



64 TOLSTOY 

He parted from them. But he did not at once 
lose their interested faith in art. 1 His pride was 
flattered thereby. It was a faith which was richly 
rewarded ; it brought him " women, money, 
fame." 

" Of this religion I was one of the pontiffs ; an 
agreeable and highly profitable situation." 

The better to consecrate himself to this religion, 
he sent in his resignation from the army (November, 
1856). 

But a man of his temper could not close his 
eyes for long. He believed, he was eager to be- 
lieve, in progress. It seemed to him " that this 
word signified something." A journey abroad, 
which lasted from the end of January to the end 
of July of 1857, during which period he visited 
France, Switzerland, and Germany, resulted in the 
destruction of this faith. In Paris, on the 6th of 
April, 1857, tne spectacle of a public execution 
"showed him the emptiness of the superstition 
of progress." 

"When I saw the head part from the body 
and fall into the basket I understood in every 
recess of my being that no theory as to the reason 
of the present order of things could justify such 
an act. Even though all the men in the world, 
supported by this or that theory, were to find it 
necessary, I myself should know that it was wrong ; 

1 " There was no difference between us and an asylum full 
of lunatics. Even at the time I vaguely suspected as much ; 
but as all madmen do, I regarded them as all mad excepting 
myself." Confessions. 



ST. PETERSBURG 65 

for it is not what men say or do that decides what 
is good or bad, but my own heart." x 

In the month of July the sight of a little peram- 
bulating singer at Lucerne, to whom the wealthy 
English visitors at the Schweizerhof were refusing 
alms, made him express in the Diary of Prince D. 
Nekhludov his contempt for all the illusions dear to 
Liberals, and for those " who trace imaginary lines 
upon the sea of good and evil." 

" For them civilisation is good ; barbarism is 
bad ; liberty is good ; slavery is bad. And this 
imaginary knowledge destroys the instinctive, pri- 
mordial cravings, which are the best. Who will 
define them for me liberty, despotism, civilisation, 
barbarism ? Where does not good co-exist with 
evil ? There is within us only one infallible guide : 
the universal Spirit which whispers to us to draw 
closer to one another." 

On his return to Russia and Yasnaya he once 
more busied himself about the peasants. Not that 
he had any illusions left concerning them. He 
writes : 

" The apologists of the people and its good sense 
speak to no purpose ; the crowd is perhaps the 
union of worthy folk ; but if so they unite only on 
their bestial and contemptible side, a side which 
expresses nothing but the weakness and cruelty of 
human nature." 2 

Thus he does not address himself to the crowd, 
but to the individual conscience of each man, each 
child of the people. For there light is to be found. 

x Confessions. 3 Diary of Prince D. Nekhludov, 

5 * 



66 TOLSTOY 

He founded schools, without precisely knowing 
what he would teach. In order to learn, he under- 
took another journey abroad, which lasted from 
the 3rd of July, i860, to the 23rd of April, 1861. 1 

He studied the various pedagogic systems of the 
time. Need we say that he rejected one and all ? 
Two visits to Marseilles taught him that the true 
education of the people is effected outside the 
schools (which he considered absurd), by means 
of the journals, the museums, the libraries, the 
street, and everyday life, which he termed "the 
spontaneous school." The spontaneous school, in 
opposition to the obligatory school, which he con- 
sidered silly and harmful ; this was what he wished 
and attempted to institute upon his return to 
Yasnaya Polyana. 2 Liberty was his principle. He 
would not admit that an elect class, " the privileged 
Liberal circle," should impose its knowledge and 
its errors upon "the people, to whom it is a 
stranger." It had no right to do so. This method 
of forced education had never succeeded in pro- 
ducing, at the University, "the men of whom 
humanity has need ; but men of whom a de- 
praved society has need ; officials, official professors, 
official literary men, or men torn aimlessly from 
their old surroundings, whose youth has been 
spoiled and wasted, and who can find no plan in 

1 At Dresden, during his travels he made the acquaintance 
of Auerbach, who had been the first to inspire him with the 
idea of educating the people ; at Kissingen he met Froebel, 
in London Herzen, and in Brussels Proudhon, who seems to 
have made a great impression upon him. 

3 Especially in 1861-02. 



ST. PETERSBURG 67 

life : irritable, puny Liberals." Go to the people 
to learn what they want 1 If they do not value 
"the art of reading and writing which the in- 
tellectuals force upon them," they have their 
reasons for that ; they have other spiritual needs, 
more pressing and more legitimate. Try to under- 
stand those needs, and help them to satisfy them 1 

These theories, those of a revolutionary Conserva- 
tive, as Tolstoy always was, he attempted to put 
into practice at Yasnaya, where he was rather the 
fellow-disciple than the master of his pupils. 8 At 
the same time, he endeavoured to introduce a 
new human spirit into agricultural exploitation. 
Appointed in 1861 territorial arbitrator for the 
district of Krapiona, he was the people's cham- 
pion against the abuses of power on the part 
of the landowners and the State. 

We must not suppose that this social activity 
satisfied him, or entirely filled his life. He continued 
to be the prey of contending passions. Although he 
had suffered from the world, he always loved it and 
felt the need of it. Pleasure resumed him at 
intervals, or else the love of action. He would risk 
his life in hunting the bear. He played for heavy 
stakes. He would even fall under the influence of 
the literary circles of St. Petersburg, for which he 
felt such contempt. After these aberrations came 
crises of disgust. Such of his writings as belong to 

1 Education and Culture. See Vie et (Euvre, by Birukov, 
vol. ii. 

a Tolstoy explained these principles in the review Yasnaya 
Polyana, 1862. 



68 TOLSTOY 

this period bear unfortunate traces of this artistic 
and moral uncertainty. The Two Hussars (1856) has 
a quality of pretentiousness and elegance, a snobbish 
worldly flavour, which shocks one as coming from 
Tolstoy. Albert, written at Dijon in 1857, is weak 
and eccentric, with no trace of the writer's habitual 
depth or precision. The Diary of a Sportsman 
(1856), a more striking though hasty piece of work, 
seems to betray the disillusionment which Tolstoy 
inspired in himself. Prince Nekhludov, his Doppel- 
ganger, his double, kills himself in a gaming-house. 

"He had everything : wealth, a name, intellect, 
and high ambitions ; he had committed no crime ; 
but he had done still worse : he had killed his 
courage, his youth ; he was lost, without even the 
excuse of a violent passion ; merely from a lack 
of will." 

The approach of death itself does not alter him : 

"The same strange inconsequence, the same 
hesitation, the same frivolity of thought. . . ." 

Death I ... At this period it began to haunt 
his mind. Three Deaths (1858-59) already fore- 
shadowed the gloomy analysis of The Death of Ivan 
Ilyitch ; the solitude of the dying man, his hatred of 
the living, his desperate query "Why?" The 
triptych of the three deaths that of the wealthy 
woman, that of the old consumptive postilion, and 
that of the slaughtered dog is not without majesty ; 
the portraits are well drawn, the images are striking, 
although the whole work, which has been too highly 
praised, is somewhat loosely constructed, while the 
death of the dog lacks the poetic precision to be 



ST. PETERSBURG 69 

found in the writer's beautiful landscapes. Taking 
it as a whole, we hardly know how far it is intended 
as a work of art for the sake of art, or whether it has 
a moral intention. 

Tolstoy himself did not know. On the 4th of 
February, 1858, when he read his essay of admit- 
tance before the Muscovite Society of Amateurs of 
Russian Literature, he chose for his subject the 
defence of art for art's sake. 1 It was the president of 
the Society, Khomiakov, who, after saluting in 
Tolstoy " the representative of purely artistic 
literature," took up the defence of social and moral 
art. 2 

A year later the death of his dearly-loved brother, 
Nikolas, who succumbed to phthisis 3 at Hyeres, on 
the 19th of September, i860, completely overcame 



1 Lecture on The Superiority of the Artistic Element in Litera- 
ture over all its Contemporary Tendencies. 

He cited against Tolstoy his own examples, including the 
old postilion in The Three Deaths. 

3 We may remark that another brother, Dmitri, had 
already died of the same disease in 1856. Tolstoy himself 
believed that he was attacked by it in 1856, in 1862, and in 
1 87 1. He was, as he writes (the 28th of October, 1852), "of a 
strong constitution, but feeble in health." He constantly 
suffered from chills, sore throats, toothache, inflamed eyes, 
and rheumatism. In the Caucasus, in 1852, he had "two days 
in the week at least to keep his room." Illness stopped him 
for several months in 1854, on the road from Silistria to 
Sebastopol. In 1856, at Yasnaya, he was seriously ill with an 
affection of the lungs. In 1862 the fear of phthisis induced 
him to undergo a Koumiss cure at Samara, where he lived 
with the Bachkirs, and after 1870 he returned thither almost 
yearly. His correspondence with Fet is full of preoccupations 



70 TOLSTOY 

Tolstoy ; shook him to the point of "crushing his 
faith in goodness, in everything/' and made him 
deny even his art : 

"Truth is horrible. . . . Doubless, so long as 
the desire to know and to speak the truth exists 
men will try to know and to speak it. This is the 
only remnant left me of my moral concepts. It is 
the only thing I shall do ; but not in the form of 
art, your art. Art is a lie, and I can no longer love a 
beautiful lie." x 

Less than six months later, however, he returned 
to the " beautiful lie " with Polikushka, 2 which of 
all his works is perhaps most devoid of moral 
intention, if we except the latent malediction upon 
money and its powers for evil ; a work written 
purely for art's sake ; a masterpiece, moreover, whose 
only flaws are a possibly excessive wealth of observa- 
tion, an abundance of material which would have 
sufficed for a great novel, and the contrast, which is 

concerning his health. This physical condition enables one 
the better to understand his obsession by the thought of death. 
In later years he spoke of this illness as of his best friend : 

"When one is ill one seems to descend a very gentle slope, 
which at a certain point is barred by a curtain, a light curtain 
of some filmy stuff ; on the hither side is life, beyond is death. 
How far superior is the state of illness, in moral value, to that 
of health ! Do not speak to me of those people who have 
never been ill ! They are terrible, the women especially so ! 
A woman who has never known illness is an absolute wild 
beast 1 " (Conversations with M. Paul Boyer, Le Temps, 27th 
of August, 1 901.) 

1 Letter to Fet, October 17, i860 (Further Letters : in the 
French version, Correspondence inidiie, pp. 27 30). 

a Written in Brussels, 1861. 



ST. PETERSBURG 71 

too severe, a little too cruel, between the humorous 
opening and the atrocious climax. 1 

1 Another novel written at this period is a simple narrative 
of a journey The Snowstorm which evokes personal 
memories, and is full of the beauty of poetic and quasi- 
musical impressions. Tolstoy used almost the same back- 
ground later, in his Master and Servant (1895). 



VII 

"FAMILY 
HAPPINESS " 






CHAPTER VII 

"FAMILY HAPPINESS" 

From this period of transition, during which the 
genius of the man was feeling its way blindly, 
doubtful of itself and apparently exhausted, " devoid 
of strong passion, without a directing will," like 
Nekhludov in the Diary of a Sportsman from this 
period issued a work unique in its tenderness and 
charm : Family Happiness (1859). This was the 
miracle of love. 

For many years Tolstoy had been on friendly 
terms with the Bers family. He had fallen in love 
with the mother and the three daughters in succes- 
sion. 1 His final choice fell upon the second, but he 
dared not confess it. Sophie Andreyevna Bers was 
still a child ; she was seventeen years old, while 
Tolstoy was over thirty ; he regarded himself as an 
old man, who had not the right to associate his 
soiled and vitiated life with that of an innocent 

x When a child he had, in a fit of jealousy, pushed from a 
balcony the little girl then aged nine who afterwards 
became Madame Bers, with the result that she was lame 
for several years. 

n 



76 TOLSTOY 

young girl. He held out for three years. 1 After- 
wards, in Anna Karenin, he related how his declara- 
tion to Sophie Bers was effected, and how she 
replied to it : both of them tracing with one finger, 
under a table, the initials of words they dared 
not say. 

Like Levine in Anna Karenin, he was so cruelly 
honest as to place his intimate journal in the hands 
of his betrothed, in order that she should be unaware 
of none of his past transgressions ; and Sophie, like 
Kitty in Anna Karenin, was bitterly hurt by its 
perusal. They were married on the 23rd of Septem- 
ber, 1862. 

In the artist's imagination this marriage was 
consummated three years earlier, when Family 
Happiness was written. 2 For these years he had 
been living in the future ; through the ineffable 
days of love that does not as yet know itself : 
through the delirious days of love that has attained 
self-knowledge, and the hour in which the divine, 
anticipated words are whispered ; when the tears 
arise "of a happiness which departs for ever and will 
never return again " ; and the triumphant reality of 

x See, in Family Happiness, the declaration of Sergius : 
" Suppose there were a Mr. A, an elderly man who had lived 
his life, and a lady B, young and happy, who as yet knew 
neither men nor life. As the result of various domestic 
happenings, he came to love her as a daughter, and was not 
aware that he could love her in another way ..." &c. 

9 Perhaps this novel contained the memories also of a 
romantic love affair which commenced in 1856, in Moscow, 
the second party to which was a young girl very different to 
himself, very worldly and frivolous, from whom he finally 
parted, although they were sincerely attached to one another. 



"FAMILY HAPPINESS" 77 

the early days of marriage ; the egoism of lovers, 
"the incessant, causeless joy," then the approaching 
weariness, the vague discontent, the boredom of a 
monotonous life, the two souls which softly disengage 
themselves and grow further and further away from 
one another ; the dangerous attraction of the world 
for the young wife flirtations, jealousies, fatal mis- 
understandings ; love dissimulated, love lost ; and 
at length the sad and tender autumn of the heart ; 
the face of love which reappears, paler, older, but 
more touching by reason of tears and the marks of 
time ; the memory of troubles, the regret for the ill 
things done and the years that are lost ; the calm of 
the evening ; the august passage from love to friend- 
ship, and the romance of the passion of maternity. 
... All that was to come, all this Tolstoy had 
dreamed of, tasted in advance ; and in order to live 
through those days more vividly he lived in the 
well-beloved. For the first time perhaps the only 
time in all his writings the story passes in the 
heart of a woman, and is told by her ; and with 
what exquisite delicacy, what spiritual beauty I 
the beauty of a soul withdrawn behind a veil of the 
truest modesty. For once the analysis of the writer 
is deprived of its cruder lights ; there is no feverish 
struggle to present the naked truth. The secrets of 
the inward life are divined rather than spoken. 
The art and the heart of the artist are both touched 
and softened ; there is a harmonious balance of 
thought and form. Family Happiness has the per- 
fection of a work of Racine. 

Marriage, whose sweet and bitter Tolstoy pre- 



78 TOLSTOY 

sented with so limpid a profundity, was to be his 
salvation. He was tired, unwell, disgusted with 
himself and his efforts. The brilliant success which 
had crowned his earlier works had given way to the 
absolute silence of the critics and the indifference of 
the public. 1 He pretended, haughtily, to be not 
ill-pleased. 

" My reputation has greatly diminished in popu- 
larity ; a fact which was saddening me. Now I am 
content ; I know that I have to say something, and 
that I have the power to speak it with no feeble 
voice. As for the public, let it think what it will I " 

But he was boasting : he himself was not sure of 
his art. Certainly he was the master of his literary 
instrument ; but he did not know what to do with 
it, as he said in respect of Polikuskha : " it was a 
matter of chattering about the first subject that 
came to hand, by a man who knows how to hold 
his pen." His social work was abortive. In 1862 
he resigned his appointment as territorial arbitrator. 
The same year the police made a search at Yasnaya 
Polyana, turned everything topsy-turvy, and closed 
the school. Tolstoy was absent at the time, suffer- 
ing from overwork; fearing that he was attacked 
by phthisis. 

"The squabbles of arbitration had become so 
painful to me, the work of the school so vague, 
and the doubts which arose from the desire of 
teaching others while hiding my own ignorance 

x From 1857 to 1861. 

Journal, October, 1857. 

3 Letter to Fet, 1863 (Vie et (Euvre). 



"FAMILY HAPPINESS" 79 

of what had to be taught, were so disheartening 
that I fell ill. Perhaps I should then have fallen 
into the state of despair to which I was to succumb 
fifteen years later, had there not remained to me an 
unknown aspect of life which promised salvation 
the life of the family." P 

1 Confessions. 



VIII 
MARRIAGE 



CHAPTER VIII 

MARRIAGE 

At first he rejoiced in the new life, with the passion 
which he brought to everything.* The personal 
influence of Countess Tolstoy was a godsend to his 
art. Greatly gifted 2 in a literary sense, she was, as 
she says, u a true author's wife," so keenly did she 
take her husband's work to heart. She worked 
with him worked to his dictation ; re-copied his 
rough drafts.3 She sought to protect him from his 
religious daemon, that formidable genie which was 
already, at moments, whispering words that meant 
the death of art. She tried to shut the door upon 
all social Utopias.4 She requickened her husband's 
creative genius. She did more : she brought as an 
offering to that genius the wealth of a fresh feminine 
temperament. With the exception of the charming 

1 " Domestic happiness completely absorbs me " (January 5, 
1863). " I am so happy I so happy ! I love her so 1 " (Feb- 
ruary 8, 1863). See Vie et (Euvre. 

* She had written several novels. 

3 It is said that she copied War and Peace seven times. 

4 Directly after his marriage Tolstoy suspended his work of 
teaching, his review, and his school. 



84 TOLSTOY 

silhouettes in Childhood and Boyhood, there are few 
women in the earlier works of Tolstoy, or they 
remain of secondary importance. Woman appears 
in Family Happiness, written under the influence of 
his love for Sophie Bers. In the works which 
follow there are numerous types of young girls and 
women, full of intensest life, and even superior to 
the male types. One likes to think not only that 
Countess Tolstoy served her husband as the model 
for Natasha in War and Peace 1 and for Kitty in 
Anna Karenin* but that she was enabled, by means 
of her confidences and her own vision, to become 
his discreet and valuable collaborator. Certain 
pages of Anna Karenin in particular seem to me to 
reveal a woman's touch. 

Thanks to the advantages of this union, Tolstoy 
enjoyed for a space of twelve or fourteen years a 
peace and security which had been long unknown 
to him.3 He was able, sheltered by love, to dream 

x Her sister Tatiana, intelligent and artistic, whose wit and 
musical talent were greatly admired by Tolstoy, also served 
him as a model. Tolstoy used to say, "I took Tania 
[Tatiana] ; I beat her up with Sonia [Sophie Bers, Countess 
Tolstoy], and out came Natasha" (cited by P. Birukov). 

The installation of Dolly in the tumble-down country 
house ; Dolly and the children ; a number of details of dress 
and toilet ; without speaking of certain secrets of the feminine 
mind, which even the intuition of a man of genius might 
perhaps have failed to penetrate, if a woman had not betrayed 
them to him. 

Here is a characteristic instance of Tolstoy's enslavement 
by his creative genius : his Journal is interrupted for thirteen 
years, from November i, 1865, when the composition of War 
and Peace was in full swing. The egoism of the artist has 



MARRIAGE 85 

and to realise at leisure the masterpieces of his 
brain, the colossal monuments which dominate the 
fiction of the nineteenth century War and Peace 
(1864-69) and Anna Karenin (1873-77). 

War and Peace is the vastest epic of our times 
a modern Iliad, A world of faces and of passions 
moves within it. Over this human ocean of in- 
numerable waves broods a sovereign mind, which 
serenely raises or stills the tempest. 

More than once in the past, while contemplating 
this work, I was reminded of Homer and of Goethe, 
in spite of the vastly different spirit and period of 
the work. Since then I have discovered that at 
the period of writing these books Tolstoy was as 
a matter of fact nourishing his mind upon Homer 
and Goethe. 1 Moreover, in the notes, dated 1865, 

silenced the monologue of the conscience. This period of 
creation was also a period of robust physical life. Tolstoy 
was "mad on hunting." H Hunting, I forget everything. . . ." 
(Letter of 1864.) In September, 1864, during a hunt on horse 
back, he broke his arm, and it was during his convalescence 
that the first portions of War and Peace were dictated. " On 
recovering consciousness after fainting, I said to myself : ' I 
am an artist.' And I am, but a lonely artist." (Letter to Fet, 
January 29, 1865.) All the letters written at this time to Fet 
are full of an exulting joy of creation. " I regard all that I 
have hitherto published," he says, " as merely a trial of my 
pen." {Ibid.) 

1 Before this date Tolstoy had noted, among the books 
which influenced him between the ages of twenty and thirty- 
five : 

" Goethe : Hermann and Dorothea Very great influence." 
" Homer : Iliad and Odyssey (in Russian) Very great 
influence." 



86 TOLSTOY 

in which he classifies the various departments of 
letters, he mentions, as belonging to the same 
family, "Odyssey, Iliad, 1805." x The natural de- 
velopment of his mind led him from the romance 
of individual destinies to the romance of armies 
and peoples, those vast human hordes in which 
the wills of millions of beings are dissolved. His 
tragic experiences at the siege of Sebastopol helped 
him to comprehend the soul of the Russian nation 
and its daily life. According to his first intentions, 
the gigantic War and Peace was to be merely the 
central panel of a series of epic frescoes, in which 
the poem of Russia should be developed from Peter 
the Great to the Decembrists. 3 

And in June, 1863, he notes in his diary : 

" I am reading Goethe, and many ideas are coming to life 
within me." 

In the spring of 1863 Tolstoy was re-reading Goethe, and 
wrote of Faust as " the poetry of the world of thought ; the 
poetry which expresses that which can be expressed by no 
other art." 

Later he sacrificed Goethe, as he did Shakespeare, to his 
God. But he remained faithful in his admiration of Homer. 
In August, 1857, he was reading, with equal zest, the Iliad 
and the Bible. In one of his latest works, the pamphlet 
attacking Shakespeare (1903), it is Homer that he opposes to 
Shakespeare as an example of sincerity, balance, and true art. 

1 The two first parts of War and Peace appeared in 1865-06 
under the title The Year 1805. 

a Tolstoy commenced this work in 1863 by The Decembrists, 
of which he wrote three fragments. But he saw that the 
foundations of his plan were not sufficiently assured, and 
going further back, to the period of the Napoleonic Wars, he 
wrote War and Peace. Publication was commenced in the 
Rousski Viestnik of January, 1865 ; the sixth volume was com- 
pleted in the autumn of 1869. Then Tolstoy ascended the 



MARRIAGE 87 

To be truly sensible of the power of this work, 
we must take into account its hidden unity. Too 
many readers, unable to see it in perspective, per- 
ceive in it nothing but thousands of details, whose 
profusion amazes and distracts them. They are lost 
in this forest of life. The reader must stand aloof, 
upon a height ; he must attain the view of the un- 
obstructed horizon, the vast circle of forest and 
meadow ; then he will catch the Homeric spirit 
of the work, the calm of eternal laws, the awful 
rhythm of the breathing of Destiny, the sense of 

stream of history; and he conceived the plan of an epic 
romance dealing with Peter the Great ; then of another, 
Mirovitch, dealing with the rule of the Empresses of the 
eighteenth century and their favourites. He worked at it 
from 1870 to 1873, surrounded with documents, and writing 
the first drafts of various portions ; but his realistic scruples 
made him renounce the project : he was conscious that he 
could never succeed in resuscitating the spirit of those 
distant periods in a sufficiently truthful fashion. Later, in 
January, 1876, he conceived the idea of another romance of 
the period of Nikolas I.; then he eagerly returned to the 
Decembrists, collecting the evidence of suryivors and visiting 
the scenes of the action. In 1878 he wrote to his aunt, Countess 
A. A. Tolstoy : " This work is so important to me ! You 
cannot imagine how much it means to me ; it is as much to 
me as your faith is to you. I would say even more." {Corre- 
spondence.) But in proportion as he plumbed the subject 
he grew away from it; his heart was in it no longer. As 
early as April, 1879, he wrote to Fet : " The Decembrists ? If I 
were thinking of it, if I were to write it, I should flatter 
myself with the hope that the very atmosphere of my mind 
would be insupportable to those who fire upon men for the 
good of humanity." (Ibid.) At this period of his life the 
religious crisis had set in ; he was about to burn his ancient 
idols. 



88 TOLSTOY 

the whole of which every detail makes a part ; and 
the genius of the artist, supreme over the whole, 
like the God of Genesis who broods upon the face 
of the waters. 

In the beginning, the calm of the ocean. Peace, and 
the life of Russia before the war. The first hundred 
pages reflect, with an impassive precision, a detached 
irony, the yawning emptiness of worldly minds. 
Only towards the hundredth page do we hear the 
cry of one of these living dead the worst among 
them, Prince Basil : 

" We commit sins ; we deceive one another ; and 
why do we do it all ? My friend, I am more than 
sixty years old. . . . All ends in death. . . . Death 
what horror ! " 

Among these idle, insipid, untruthful souls, 
capable of every aberration, of every crime, cer- 
tain saner natures are prominent : genuine natures 
by their clumsy candour, like Pierre Besoukhov ; by 
their deeply rooted independence, their Old Russian 
peculiarities, like Marie Dmitrievna ; by the fresh- 
ness of their youth, like the little Rostoffs : natures 
full of goodness and resignation, like the Princess 
Marie ; and those who, like Prince Andrei, are not 
good, but proud, and are tormented by an unhealthy 
existence. 

Now comes the first muttering of the waves. The 
Russian army is in Austria. Fatality is supreme : 
nowhere more visibly imperious than in the loosing 
of elementary forces in the war. The true leaders 
are those who do not seek to lead or direct, but, 
like Kutuzov or Bagration, to "allow it to be 



MARRIAGE 89 

believed that their personal intentions are in per- 
fect agreement with what is really the simple result 
of the force of circumstances, the will of subordi- 
nates, and the caprices of chance." The advantage 
of surrendering to the hand of Destiny ! The 
happiness of simple action, a sane and normal 
state. . . . The troubled spirits regain their poise. 
Prince Andrei breathes, begins to live. . . . And 
while in the far distance, remote from the life- 
giving breath of the holy tempest, Pierre and the 
Princess Marie are threatened by the contagion of 
their world and the deception of love, Andrei,, 
wounded at Austerlitz, has suddenly, amid the 
intoxication of action brutally interrupted, the 
revelation of the serene immensity of the universe. 
Lying on his back, " he sees nothing now, except, 
very far above him, a sky infinitely deep, wherein 
light, greyish clouds go softly wandering." 

"What peacefulness ! How calm 1" he was say- 
ing to himself ; " it was not like this when I was 
running by and shouting. . . . How was it I did 
not notice it before, this illimitable depth ? How 
happy I am to have found it at last ! Yes, all is 
emptiness, all is deception, except this. And God 
be praised for this calm ! . . . " 

But life resumes him, and again the wave falls. 
Left once more to themselves, in the demoralising 
atmosphere of cities, the restless, discouraged souls 
wander blindly in the darkness. Sometimes 
through the poisoned atmosphere of the world 
sweep the intoxicating, maddening odours of 
nature, love, and springtime ; the blind forces, 



90 TOLSTOY 

which draw together Prince Andrei and the 
charming Natasha, to throw her, a moment later, 
into the arms of the first seducer to hand. So 
much poetry, so much tenderness, so much 
purity of heart, tarnished by the world ! And 
always "the wide sky which broods above the 
outrage and abjectness of the earth." But man 
does not see it. Even Andrei has forgotten the 
light of Austerlitz. For him the sky is now only 
"a dark, heavy vault" which covers the face of 
emptiness. 

It is time for the hurricane of war to burst 
once more upon these vitiated minds. The father- 
land, Russia, is invaded. Then comes the day of 
Borodino, with its solemn majesty. Enmities 
are effaced. Dologhov embraces his enemy Pierre. 
Andrei, wounded, weeps for pity and compassion 
over the misery of the man whom he most hated, 
Anatol Kuraguin, his neighbour in the ambulance. 
The unity of hearts is accomplished ; unity in 
passionate sacrifice to the country and submission 
to the divine laws. 

" To accept the frightful necessity of war, 
seriously and austerely. ... To human liberty, 
war is the most painful act of submission to the 
divine laws. Simplicity of heart consists in sub- 
mission to the will of God." 

The soul of the Russian people and its submission 
to Destiny are incarnated in the person of the 
commander-in-chief, Kutuzov. "This old man, 
who has no passions left, but only experience, the 
result of the passions, and in whom intelligence, 



MARRIAGE 91 

which is intended to group together facts and to 
draw from them conclusions, is replaced by a 
philosophical contemplation of events, devises 
nothing and undertakes nothing ; but he listens 
to and remembers everything ; he knows how to 
profit by it at the right moment ; he will hinder 
nothing that is of use, he will permit nothing 
harmful. He sees on the faces of his troops 
that inexpressible force which is known as the 
will to conquer ; it is latent victory. He admits 
something more powerful than his own will : 
the inevitable march of the facts which pass before 
his eyes ; he sees them, he follows them, and he 
is able mentally to stand aloof." 

In short, he has the heart of a Russian. This 
fatalism of the Russian people, calmly heroic, is 
personified also in the poor moujik, Platon Kara- 
tayev, simple, pious, and resigned, with his kindly 
patient smile in suffering and in death. Through 
suffering and experience, above the ruins of their 
country, after the horrors of its agony, Pierre and 
Andrei, the two heroes of the book, attain, through 
love and faith, to the moral deliverance and the 
mystic joy by which they behold God living. 

Tolstoy does not stop here. The epilogue, of 
which the action passes in 1820, deals with the 
transition from one age to another : from one 
Napoleonic era to the era of the Decembrists. It 
produces an impression of continuity, and of the 
resumption of life. Instead of commencing and 
ending in the midst of a crisis, Tolstoy finishes, 
as he began, at the moment when a great wave has 



92 TOLSTOY 

spent itself, while that following it is gathering 
itself together. Already we obtain a glimpse of the 
heroes to be, of the conflicts which will ensue 
between them, and of the dead who are born 
again in the living. 1 

I have tried to indicate the broad lines of the 
romance ; for few readers take the trouble to look 
for them. But what words are adequate to describe 
the extraordinary vitality of these hundreds of 
heroes, all distinct individuals, all drawn with 
unforgettable mastery : soldiers, peasants, great 

1 Pierre Besoukhov, who has married Natasha, will be- 
come a Decembrist. He has founded a secret society to 
watch over the general good, a sort of Tugelbund. Natasha 
associates herself with his plans with the utmost enthusiasm. 
Denissov cannot conceive of a pacific revolution ; but is 
quite ready for an armed revolt. Nikolas Rostoff has retained 
his blind soldier's loyalty. He who said before Austerlitz, 
" We have only one thing to do : to fight and never to think," 
is angry with Pierre, and exclaims : " My oath before all ! 
If I were ordered to march against you with my squadron 
I should march and I should strike home." His wife, 
Princess Marie, agrees with him. Prince Andrei's son, little 
Nikolas Bolkonsky, fifteen years old, delicate, sickly, yet 
charming, with wide eyes and golden hair, listens feverishly 
to the discussion ; all his love is Pierre's and Natasha's ; he 
does not care greatly for Nikolas and Marie ; he worships 
his father, whom he has never seen ; he dreams of growing 
like him, of being grown up, of doing something wonderful, 
he knows not what. " Whatever they tell me, I will do it. 
. . . Yes, I shall do it. He would have been pleased with 
me." And the book ends with the dream of a child, who 
sees himself in the guise of one of Plutarch's heroes, with his 
uncle Pierre by his side, preceded by Glory, and followed by 
an army. If the Decembrists had been written then little 
Bolkonsky would doubtless have been one of its heroes. 



MARRIAGE 93 

nobles, Russians, Austrians, Frenchmen ! Not a 
line savours of improvisation. For this gallery 
of portraits, unexampled in European literature, 
Tolstoy made sketches without number : " com- 
bined," as he says, "millions of projects" ; buried 
himself in libraries ; laid under contribution his 
family archives, 1 his previous notes, his personal 
memories. This meticulous preparation ensured 
the solidity of the work, but did not damp his 
spontaneity. Tolstoy worked with enthusiasm, 
with an eagerness and a delight which communicate 
themselves to the reader. Above all, the great 
charm of War and Peace resides in its spirit of 
youth. No other work of Tolstoy's presents in 
such abundance the soul of childhood and of 
youth ; and each youthful spirit is a strain of music, 
pure as a spring, full of a touching and penetrat- 
ing grace, like a melody of Mozart's. Of such are 
the young Nikolas Rostoff, Sonia, and poor little 
Petia. 

Most exquisite of all is Natasha. Dear little 
girl ! fantastic, full of laughter, her heart full of 
affection, we see her grow up before us, we follow 
her through life, with the tenderness one would feel 
for a sister who that has read of her does not feel 
that he has known her ? . . . That wonderful night 
of spring, when Natasha, at her window, flooded 

x I have remarked that the two families Rostoff and 
Bolkonsky, in War and Peace, recall the families of Tolstoy's 
father and mother by many characteristics. Again, in the 
novels of the Caucasus and Sebastopol there are many of the 
types of soldiers, officers and men, which appear in War and 
Peace. 



9i TOLSTOY 

with the moonlight, dreams and speaks wildly, above 
the window of the listening Andrei ... the emotions 
of the first ball, the expectation of love, the burgeon- 
ing of riotous dreams and desires, the sleigh-ride, 
the night in the snow-bound forest, full of fantastic 
lights; Nature, and the embrace of her vague 
tenderness : the evening at the Opera, the unfamiliar 
world of art, in which reason grows confused ; 
the folly of the heart, and the folly of the body 
yearning for love ; the misery that floods the soul ; 
the divine pity which watches over the dying lover. 
. . . One cannot evoke these pitiful memories 
without emotion ; such emotion as one would feel 
in speaking of a dear and beloved woman. How 
such a creation shows the weakness of the female 
types in almost the whole of contemporary drama 
and fiction I Life itself has been captured ; life 
so fluid, so supple, that we seem to see it throbbing 
and changing from one line to another. 

Princess Marie, the ugly woman, whose goodness 
makes her beautiful, is no less perfect a portrait ; 
but how the timid, awkward girl would have 
blushed, how those who resemble her must blush, 
at finding unveiled all the secrets of a heart which 
hides itself so fearfully from every glance ! 

In general the portraits of women are, as I have 
said, very much finer than the male characters ; 
in especial than those of the two heroes to whom 
Tolstoy has given his own ideas : the weak, pliable 
nature of Pierre Besoukhov, and the hard, eager 
nature of Prince Andrie Bolkonsky. These are 
characters which lack a centre of gravity ; they 



MARRIAGE 96 

oscillate perpetually, rather than evolve ; they run 
from one extreme to the other, yet never advance. 
One may, of course, reply that in this they are 
thoroughly Russian. I find, however, that Russians 
have criticised them in similar terms. Tourgenev 
doubtless had them in mind when he complained 
that Tolstoy's psychology was a stationary matter. 
" No real development. Eternal hesitations : oscil- 
lations of feeling." x Tolstoy himself admitted that 
he had at times rather sacrificed the individual 
character to the historical design. 2 

It is true, in fact, that the glory of War and Peace 
resides in the resurrection of a complete historical 
period, with its national migrations, its warfare of 
peoples. Its true heroes are these peoples; and 
behind them, as behind the heroes of Homer, the 
gods who lead them ; the forces, invisible, " infinitely 
small, which direct the masses," the breath of 
the Infinite. These gigantic conflicts, in which a 
hidden destiny hurls the blind nations together, have 
a mythical grandeur. Our thoughts go beyond the 
Iliad: we are reminded of the Hindu epics. 

1 Letter of February 2, 1868, cited by Birukov. 

9 Notably, he said, that of Prince Andrei in the first part. 



IX 

"ANNA 
KARENIN" 



CHAPTER IX 

"ANNA KARENIN" 

Anna Karenin, with War and Peace* marks the 
climax of this period of maturity. Anna Karenin 
is the more perfect work ; the work of a mind more 
certain of its artistic creation, richer too in ex- 
perience ; a mind for which the world of the 
heart holds no more secrets. But it lacks the 
fire of youth, the freshness of enthusiasm, the 
mighty pinions of War and Peace. Already 
Tolstoy has lost something of the joy of creation. 

1 It is regrettable that the beauty of the poetical concep- 
tion of the work is often tarnished by the philosophical 
chatter with which Tolstoy has loaded his work, especially in 
the later portions. He is determined to make an exposition 
of his theory of the fatality of history. The pity is that he 
returns to the point incessantly, and obstinately repeats him- 
self. Flaubert, who " gave vent to cries of admiration " 
while reading the first two volumes, which he declared 
" sublime " and " full of Shakespearean things," threw the third 
volume aside in boredom : "He goes off horribly. He 
repeats himself, and he philosophises. We see the aristocrat, 
the author, and the Russian, while hitherto we have seen 
nothing but Nature and Humanity." (Letter to Tourgenev, 
January, 1880.) 

09 



100 TOLSTOY 

The temporary peace of the first months of marriage 
has flown. Into the enchanted circle of love and 
art which Countess Tolstoy had drawn about him 
moral scruples begin to intrude. 

Even in the early chapters of Wat and Peace, 
written one year after marriage, the confidences 
of Prince Andrei to Pierre upon the subject of 
marriage denote the disenchantment of the man 
who sees in the beloved woman the stranger, the 
innocent enemy, the involuntary obstacle to his 
moral development. Some letters of 1865 announce 
the coming return of religious troubles. As yet 
they are only passing threats, blotting out the joy 
of life. But during the months of 1869, when 
Tolstoy was finishing War and Peace, there fell 
a more serious blow. 

He had left his home for a few days to visit a 
distant estate. One night he was lying in bed ; 
it had just struck two : 

u I was dreadfully tired ; I was sleepy, and felt 
comfortable enough. All of a sudden I was seized 
by such anguish, such terror as I had never felt 
in all my life. I will tell you about it in detail ; 
it was truly frightful. I leapt from the bed and 
told them to get the horses ready. While they 
were putting them in I fell asleep, and when I 
woke again I was completely recovered. Yesterday 
the same thing happened, but in a much less 
degree." 

The palace of illusion, so laboriously raised by 
the love of the wife, was tottering. In the spiritual 
blank which followed the achievement of War 



"ANNA KARENIN" 101 

and Peace the artist was recaptured by his philo- 
sophical x and educational preoccupations ; he 
wished to write a spelling-book for the people ; 
he worked at it feverishly for four years ; he was 
prouder of it than of War and Peace, and when 
it was finished (1872) he wrote a second (1875). 
Then he conceived a passion for Greek ; he studied 
Latin from morning to night ; he abandoned 
all other work ; he discovered " the delightful 
Xenophon," and Homer, the real Homer ; not the 
Homer of the translators, "all these Joukhovskys 
and Vosses who sing with any sort of voice they 
can manage to produce, guttural, peevish, mawkish," 
but "this other devil, who sings at the top of his 
voice, without it ever entering his head that any one 
may be listening." 2 

" Without a knowledge of Greek, no education ! 
I am convinced that until now I knew nothing 
of all that is truly beautiful and of a simple beauty 
in human speech." 

This is folly, and he admits as much. He goes 
to school again with such passionate enthusiasm 

1 While he was finishing War and Peace, in the summer 
of 1869, he discovered Schopenhauer, and was filled with 
enthusiasm. "I am convinced that Schopenhauer is the 
most genial of men. Here is the whole universe reflected 
with an extraordinary clearness and beauty." (Letter to Fet, 
August 30, 1869.) 

Between Homer and his translators," he says again, "there 
is the difference between boiled and distilled water and the 
spring-water broken on the rocks, which may carry the sand 
along with it as it flows, but becomes more pure and fresh 
on that account." 



102 TOLSTOY 

that he falls ill. In 1871 he was forced to go to 
Samara to undergo the koumiss cure, staying with 
the Bachkirs. Nothing pleased him but his Greek. 
At the end of a lawsuit, in 1872, he spoke seriously of 
selling all that he possessed in Russia and of settling 
in England. Countess Tolstoy was in despair : 

"If you are always absorbed in your Greeks you 
will never get well. It is they who have caused 
this suffering and this indifference concerning your 
present life. It is not in vain that we call Greek 
a dead language ; it produces a condition of death 
in the spirit." 1 

Finally, to the great joy of the Countess, after 
many plans abandoned before they were fairly 
commenced, on March 19, 1873, he began to write 
Anna Karenin* While he worked at it his life 
was saddened by domestic sorrow ; 3 his wife was 
ill. "Happiness does not reign in the house," 4 
he writes to Fet in 1876. 

To some extent the work bears traces of these 
depressing experiences, and of passions disillu- 
sioned.5 Save in the charming passages dealing 

1 Papers of Countess Tolstoy (Vie et (Euvre). 

a It was completed in 1877. It appeared minus the 
epilogue in the Rousski Viestniki. 

s The death of three children (November 18, 1873, 
February, 1875, November, 1875) ; of his Aunt Tatiana, his 
adopted mother (June, 1874), and of his Aunt Pelagia 
(December, 1875). 

* Letter to Fet, March, 1876. 

s " Woman is the stumbling-block of a man's career. It 
is difficult to love a woman and to do nothing of any profit ; 
and the only way of not being reduced to inaction by love 
is to marry." (Anna Karenin.) 



"ANNA KARENIN" 103 

with the betrothal of Levine, love is no longer 
presented with the spirit of youth and poetry 
which places certain pages of War and Peace on 
a level with the most beautiful lyric poetry of all 
times. It has assumed a different character : bitter, 
sensual, imperious. The fatality which broods over 
the romance is no longer, as in War and Peace, 
a kind of Krishna, murderous and serene, the 
Destiny of empires, but the madness of love, 
"Venus herself." She it is, in the wonderful ball 
scene, when passion seizes upon Anna and Vronsky 
unawares, who endows the innocent beauty of Anna, 
crowned with forget-me-not and clothed in black 
velvet, with "an almost infernal seductiveness." She 
it is who, when Vronsky has just declared his love, 
throws a light upon Anna's face ; but a light 
" not of joy ; it was the terrible glare of an in- 
cendiary fire upon a gloomy night." She it is 
who, in the veins of this loyal and reasonable 
woman, this young, affectionate mother, pours a 
voluptuous stream as of irresistible ichor, and in- 
stalls herself in her heart, never to leave it until 
she has destroyed it. No one can approach Anna 
without feeling the attraction and the terror of 
this hidden daemon. Kitty is the first to discover 
it, with a shock of bewilderment. A mysterious 
fear mingles with the delight of Vronsky when he 
goes to see Anna. Levine, in her presence, loses 
all his will. Anna herself is perfectly well aware 
that she is no longer her own mistress. As the 
story develops the implacable passion consumes, 
little by little, the whole moral structure of this 



104 TOLSTOY 

proud woman. All that is best in her, her sincere, 
courageous mind, crumbles and falls ; she has no 
longer the strength to sacrifice her worldly vanity ; 
her life has no other object than to please her 
lover ; she refuses, with shame and terror, to bear 
children ; jealousy tortures her ; the sensual passion 
which enslaves her obliges her to lie with her 
gestures, her voice, her eyes ; she falls to the level 
of those women who no longer seek anything 
but the power of making every man turn to look 
after them ; she uses morphia to dull her sufferings, 
until the intolerable torments which consume her 
overcome her with the bitter sense of her moral 
downfall, and cast her beneath the wheels of the 
railway-carriage. "And the little moujik with the 
untidy beard " the sinister vision which has 
haunted her dreams and Vronsky's "leaned over 
the track from the platform of the carriage " ; and, 
as the prophetic dream foretold, " he was bent 
double over a sack, in which he was hiding the 
remains of something which had known life, with 
its torments, its betrayals, and its sorrow*." 

"Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord." 1 

Around this tragedy of a soul consumed by love 
and crushed by the law of God a painting in a 
single shade, and of terrible gloom Tolstoy has 
woven, as in War and Peace, the romances of other 
lives. Unfortunately these parallel stories alternate 
in a somewhat stiff and artificial manner, without 
achieving the organic unity of the symphony of 
1 The motto at the commencement of the book. 



"ANNA KARENIN" 105 

War and Peace. It may also be said that the 
perfect realism of certain of the pictures the 
aristocratic circles of St. Petersburg and their idle 
discourse is now and again superfluous and un- 
necessary. Finally, and more openly than in War 
and Peace, Tolstoy has presented his own moral 
character and his philosophic ideas side by side 
with the spectacle of life. None the less, the 
work is of a marvellous richness. There is the 
same profusion of types as in War and Peace, 
and all are of a striking justness. The portraits 
of the men seem to me even superior. Tolstoy 
has depicted with evident delight the amiable 
egoist, Stepan Arcadievitch, whom no one can 
look at without responding to his affectionate 
smile, and Karenin, the perfect type of the high 
official, the distinguished and commonplace states- 
man, with his mania for concealing his real opinions 
and feelings under a mask of perpetual irony : a 
mixture of dignity and cowardice, of Phariseeism 
and Christian feeling : a strange product of an 
artificial world, from which he can never com- 
pletely free himself in spite of his intelligence and 
his true generosity ; a man afraid to listen to his 
own heart, and rightly so afraid, since when he 
does surrender to it, he ends by falling into a 
state of nonsensical mysticism. 

But the principal interest of the romance, besides 
the tragedy of Anna and the varied pictures of 
Russian society towards i860 of salons, officers' 
clubs, balls, theatres, races lies in its auto- 
biographical character. More than any other 



106 TOLSTOY 

personage of Tolstoy's books, Constantine Levine 
is the incarnation of the writer himself. Not only 
has Tolstoy attributed to him his own ideas at one 
and the same time conservative and democratic 
and the anti-Liberalism of the provincial aristocrat 
who despises " intellectuals " ; but he has made 
him the gift of part of his own life. The love of 
Levine and Kitty and their first years of marriage 
are a transposition of his own domestic memories, 
just as the death of Levine's brother is a melancholy 
evocation of the death of Tolstoy's brother, Dmitri. 
The latter portion, useless to the romance, gives us 
an insight into the troubles which were then oppress- 
ing the author. While the epilogue of War and 
Peace was an artistic transition to another pro- 
jected work, the epilogue to Anna Karenin is an 
autobiographical transition to the moral revolution 
which, two years later, was to find expression in 
the Confessions. Already, in the course of Anna 
Karenin, he returns again and again to a violent 
or ironical criticism of contemporary society, which 
he never ceased to attack in his subsequent works. 
War is declared upon deceit : war upon lies ; upon 
virtuous as well as vicious lies; upon liberal 
chatter, fashionable charity, drawing-room religion, 
and philanthropy. War against the world, which 
distorts all truthful feelings, and inevitably crushes 
the generous enthusiasm of the mind 1 Death 
throws an unexpected light upon the social con- 
ventions. Before Anna dying, the stilted Karenin 

1 Notice also, in the epilogue, the hostility towards warfare, 
nationalism, and Pan-Slavism. 



"ANNA KARENIN" 107 

is softened. Into this lifeless soul, in which every- 
thing is artificial, shines a ray of love and of 
Christian forgiveness. All three the husband, 
the wife, and the lover are momentarily trans- 
formed. All three become simple and loyal. But 
as Anna recovers, all three are sensible, "facing 
the almost holy moral strength which was guiding 
them from within, the existence of another force, 
brutal but all-powerful, which was directing their 
lives despite themselves, and which would not 
leave them in peace." And they knew from the 
beginning that they would be powerless in the 
coming struggle, in which u they would be obliged 
to do the evil that the world would consider 
necessary." x 

If Levine, like Tolstoy, whose incarnation he is, 
also became purified in the epilogue to the book, it 
was because he too was touched by mortality. 
Previously, " incapable of believing, he was equally 
incapable of absolute doubt." 2 After he beheld his 
brother die the terror of his ignorance possessed 
him. For a time this misery was stifled by his 
marriage ; but it re-awakened at the birth of his 
firstborn. He passed alternately through crises 
of prayer and negation. He read the philosophers 
in vain. He began, in his distracted state, to fear 
the temptation of suicide. Physical work was a 
solace ; it presented no doubts ; all was clear. 
Levine conversed with the peasants ; one of them 

1 " Evil is that which is reasonable to the world. Sacrifice 
and love are insanity." (Anna Karenin, vol. ii.) 
9 Anna Karenin, vol. ii. 



108 TOLSTOY 

spoke of the men " who live not for self, but for 
God." This was to him an illumination. He saw 
the antagonism between the reason and the heart. 
Reason preached the ferocious struggle for life ; there 
is nothing reasonable in loving one's neighbour : 

" Reason has taught me nothing ; all that I know 
has been given to me, revealed to me by the heart." r 

From this time peace returned. The word of the 
humble peasant, whose heart was his only guide, 
had led him back to God. ... To what God ? He 
did not seek to know. His attitude toward the 
Church at this moment, as was Tolstoy's for a long 
period, was humble, and in no wise defiant of her 
dogmas. 

" There is a truth even in the illusion of the 
celestial vault and in the apparent movement of the 
stars." 2 

1 Anna Karenin. vol. ii. 3 Ibid. 



X 

THE CRISIS 



CHAPTER X 

THE CRISIS 

The misery which oppressed Levine, and the long- 
ing for suicide which he concealed from Kitty, 
Tolstoy was at this period concealing from his wife. 
But he had not as yet achieved the calm which he 
attributed to his hero. To be truthful, this mental 
state is hardly communicated to the reader. We 
feel that it is desired rather than realised, and that 
Levine's relapse among his doubts is imminent. 
Tolstoy was not duped by his desires. He had the 
greatest difficulty in reaching the end of his work. 
Anna Karenin wearied him before he had finished 
it. 1 He could work no longer. He remained at a 
standstill ; inert, without will-power, a prey to self- 
terror and self-disgust. There, in the emptiness of 
his life, rose the great wind which issued from the 
abyss ; the vertigo of death. 

Tolstoy told of these terrible years at a later 

x " Now I am harnessing myself again to the wearisome and 
vulgar Anna Karenin, with the sole desire of getting rid of it 
as quickly as possible." (Letters to Fet, August 26, 1875.) " I 
must finish the romance, which is wearying me." {Ibid. 
March 1, 1876.) 

ill 



112 TOLSTOY 

period, when he was newly escaped from the 
abyss. 1 

" I was not fifty," he said ; " I loved ; I was 
loved ; I had good children, a great estate, fame, 
health, and moral and physical vigour ; I could reap 
or mow like any peasant ; I used to work ten hours 
at a stretch without fatigue. Suddenly my life came 
to a standstill. I could breathe, eat, drink and 
sleep. But this was not to live. I had no desires 
left. I knew there was nothing to desire. I could 
not even wish to know the truth. The truth was 
that life is a piece of insanity. I had reached the 
abyss, and I saw clearly that there was nothing 
before me but death. I, a fortunate and healthy 
man, felt that I could not go on living. An irresis- 
tible force was urging me to rid myself of life. . . . 
I will not say that I wanted to kill myself. The force 
which was edging me out of life was something 
stronger than myself ; it was an aspiration, a desire 
like my old desire for life, but in an inverse sense. I 
had to humour, to deceive myself, lest I should give 
way to it too promptly. There I was, a happy man, 
and I would hide away a piece of cord lest I 
should hang myself from the beam that ran between 
the cupboards of my room, where I was alone every 
night while undressing. I no longer took my gun 
out for a little shooting, lest I should be tempted. 2 

* In his Confessions (1879). 

8 See Anna Karcnin. "And Levine, who had the love of a 
woman, and was the father of a family, put every kind of 
weapon away out of reach, as though he was afraid of yield- 
ing to the temptation of putting an end to his sufferings." 



THE CRISIS 113 

It seemed to me that life was a dreary farce, which 
was being played out before my eyes. Forty years 
of work, of trouble, of progress, only to find that 
there is nothing ! Nothing ! Nothing will remain 
of me but putrescence and worms. . . . One can 
live only while one is intoxicated with life ; but the 
moment the intoxication is over one sees that all is 
merely deceit, a clumsy fraud. . . . My family and 
art were no longer enough to satisfy me. My 
family consisted of unhappy creatures like myself. 
Art is a mirror to life. When fife no longer means 
anything it is no longer amusing to use the mirror. 
And the worst of it was, I could not resign myself 
I was like a man lost in a forest, who is seized with 
horror because he is lost, and who runs hither and 
thither and cannot stop, although he knows that at 
every step he is straying further." 

Salvation came from the people. Tolstoy had 
always had for triem u a strange affection, abso- 
lutely genuine," x which the repeated experiences 
of his social disillusions were powerless to 
shake. Of late years he, like Levine, had drawn 

This frame of mind was not peculiar to Tolstoy and his 
characters. Tolstoy was struck by the increasing number of 
suicides among the wealthy classes all over Europe, and in 
Russia more especially. He often alludes to the fact in such 
of his books as were written about this period. It was as 
though a great wave of neurasthenia had swept across Europe 
in 1880, drowning its thousands of victims. Those who were 
young men at the time will remember it ; and for them 
Tolstoy's record of this human experience will have a historic 
value. He has written the secret tragedy of a generation. 
1 Confessions. 

8 



114 TOLSTOY 

very near to them. 1 He began to ponder concern- 
ing these millions of beings who were excluded 
from the narrow circle of the learned, the rich, and 
the idle who killed themselves, endeavoured to for- 
get themselves, or, like himself, were basely pro- 
longing a hopeless life. He asked himself why 
these millions of men and women escaped this 
despair : why they did not kill themselves. He 
then perceived that they were living not by the 
light of reason, but without even thinking of reason ; 
they were living by faith. What was this faith 
which knew nothing of reason ? 

" Faith is the energy of life. One cannot live 
without faith. The ideas of religion were elaborated 
in the infinite remoteness of human thought. The 
replies given by faith to Life the sphinx contain 
the deepest wisdom of humanity." 

Is it enough, then, to be acquainted with those 
formulae of wisdom recorded in the volume of 
religion ? No, for faith is not a science ; faith is an 
act ; it has no meaning unless it is lived. The dis- 
gust which Tolstoy felt at the sight of rich and right- 
thinking people, for whom faith was merely a kind 

1 His portraits of this period betray this plebeian tendency. 
A painting by Kramskoy (1873) represents Tolstoy in a 
moujik's blouse, with bowed head : it resembles a German 
Christ. The forehead is growing bare at the temples ; the 
eheeks are lined and bearded. In another portrait, dated 
1881, he has the look of a respectable artisan in his Sunday 
clothes : the hair cut short, the beard and whiskers spread out 
on either side ; the face looks much wider below than above ; 
the eyebrows are contracted, the eyes gloomy ; the wide 
nostrils have a dog-like appearance ; the ears are enormous. 



THE CRISIS 115 

of u epicurean consolation," threw him definitely 
among the simple folk who alone lived lives in 
agreement with their faith. 

u And he understood that the life of the labouring 
people was life itself, and that the meaning to be 
attributed to that life was truth." 

But how become a part of the people and share 
its faith ? It is not enough to know that others 
are in the right; it does not depend upon our- 
selves whether we are like them. We pray to 
God in vain; in vain we stretch our eager arms 
toward Him. God flies. Where shall He be 
found ? 

But one day grace descended : 

"One day of early spring I was alone in the 
forest, listening to its sounds. ... I was thinking 
of my distress during the last three years ; of my 
search for God ; of my perpetual oscillations from joy 
to despair. . . . And I suddenly saw that I used to 
live only when I used to believe in God. At the 
very thought of Him the delightful waves of life 
stirred in me. Everything around me grew full 
of life ; everything received a meaning. But 
the moment I no longer believed life suddenly 
ceased. 

" Then what am I still searching for ? a voice 
cried within me. For Him, without whom man 
cannot live ! To know God and to live it is the 
same thing ! For God is Life 

"Since then this light has never again deserted 
me." J 

1 Confessions. 



116 TOLSTOY 

He was saved. God had appeared to him. 1 
But as he was not a Hindu mystic, to whom 
ecstasy suffices j as to the dreams of the Asiatic 
was added the thirst for reason and the need of 
action of the Occidental, he was moved to translate 
his revelation into terms of practical faith, and to 
draw from the holy life the rules of daily existence. 
Without any previous bias, and sincerely wishing 
to believe in the beliefs of his own flesh and blood, 

1 To tell the truth not for the first time. The young 
volunteer in the Caucasus, the officer at Sebastopol, Olenin 
of the Cossacks, Prince Andrei, and Pierre Besoukhov, in 
War and Peace, had had similar visions. But Tolstoy was 
so enthusiastic that each time he discovered God he believed 
it was for the first time; that previously there had been 
nothing but night and the void. He saw nothing of his 
past but its shadows and its shames. We who, through read- 
ing his Journal, know better than he himself the story of 
his heart, know also how profoundly religious was that 
heart, even when he was most astray. But he himself 
confesses in a passage in the preface to the Criticism oj 
Dogmatic Theology : " God 1 God I I have erred ; I have 
sought the truth where I should not have sought it; and 
I knew that I erred. I flattered my evil passions, knowing 
them to be evil ; but I never forgot Thee. I was always 
conscious of Thee, even when I went astray." The crisis of 
1878-79 was only more violent than the rest ; perhaps under 
the influence of repeated loss and the advance of age ; its 
only novelty was that the image of God, instead of vanishing 
and leaving no trace when once the flame of ecstasy flickered 
out, remained with him, and the penitent, warned by past ex- 
perience, hastened to "walk in the light while he had the 
light," and to deduce from his faith a whole system of life. 
Not that he had not already tried to do so. (Remember the 
Rules of Life written when he was a student.) But at fifty 
years of age there was less likelihood that his passions 
would divert him from his path. 



THE CRISIS 117 

he began by studying the doctrine of the Orthodox 
Church, of which he was a member. 1 In order to 
become more intimately a part of that body he 
submitted for three years to all its ceremonies ; 
confessing himself, communicating ; not presuming 
to judge such matters as shocked him, inventing 
explanations for what he found obscure or in- 
comprehensible, uniting himself, through and in 
their faith, with all those whom he loved, whether 
living or dead, and always cherishing the hope 
that at a certain moment " love would open to him 
the gates of truth." But it was all useless : his 
reason and his heart revolted. Such ceremonies 
as baptism and communion appeared to him 
scandalous. When he was forced to repeat that 
the host was the true body and true blood of 
Christ, "he felt as though a knife were plunged 
into his heart." But it was not the dogmas 
which raised between the Church and himself an 
insurmountable wall, but the practical questions, 
and in especial two : the hateful and mutual 
intolerance of the Churches 2 and the sanction, 
formal or tacit, of homicide : of war and of 
capital punishment. 

So he broke loose, and the rupture was the more 
violent in that for three years he had suppressed 
his faculty of thought. He walked delicately no 

1 The sub-title of the Confessions is Introduction to the 
Criticism of Dogmatic Theology and the Examination of the 
Christian Doctrine. 

a " I, who beheld the truth in the unity of love, was struck 
with the fact that religion itself destroyed that which it 
sought to produce." (Confessions.) 



118 TOLSTOY 

longer. Angrily and violently he trampled under- 
foot the religion which the day before he was 
still persistently practising. In his Criticism of 
Dogmatic Theology (i 879-1881) he termed it not 
only an "insanity, but a conscious and interested 
lie." 1 He contrasted it with the New Testament, 
in his Concordance and Translation of the Four 
Gospels (1881-83). Finally, upon the Gospel he 
built his faith (What my Faith consists in, 1883). 

It all resides in these words : 

" I believe in the doctrine of the Christ. I 
believe that happiness is possible on earth only 
when all men shall accomplish it." 

Its corner-stone is the Sermon on the Mount, 
whose essential teaching Tolstoy expresses in five 
commandments : 

w I. Do not be angry. 

" 2. Do not commit adultery. 

11 3. Do not take oaths. 

" 4. Do not resist evil by evil. 

" 5. Be no man's enemy." 

This is the negative part of the doctrine ; the 
positive portion is contained in this single com- 
mandment : 

" Love God, and thy neighbour as thyself." 

"Christ has said that he who shall have broken 
the least of these commandments will hold the 
lowest place in the kingdom of heaven." 

1 " And I am convinced that the teaching of the Church is 
in theory a crafty and evil lie, and in practice a concoction 
of gross superstitions and witchcraft, under which the mean- 
ing of the Christian doctrine absolutely disappears." (Reply 
to the Holy Synod, April 4-17, 1901.) 



THE CRISIS 119 

And Tolstoy adds naively : 

u Strange as it may seem, I have been obliged, 
after eighteen centuries, to discover these rules as 
a novelty." 

Does Tolstoy believe in the divinity of Christ ? 
By no means. In what quality does he invoke 
him ? As the greatest of the line of sages 
Brahma, Buddha, Lao-Tse, Confucius, Zoroaster, 
Isaiah who have revealed to man the true hap- 
piness to which he aspires, and the way which 
he must follow. 1 Tolstoy is the disciple of these 
great religious creators, of these Hindu, Chinese, 
and Hebrew demi-gods and prophets. He defends 

x As he grew older, this feeling of the unity of religious 
truth throughout human history and of the kinship of Christ 
with the other sages, from Buddha down to Kant and Emerson 
grew more and more accentuated, until in his later years 
Tolstoy denied that he had "any predilection for Chris- 
tianity." Of the greatest importance in this connection is 
a letter written between July 27 and August 4, 1909, to the 
painter Jan Styka, and recently reproduced in Le Theosophe 
(January 16, 191 1). According to his habit, Tolstoy, full of his 
new conviction, was a little inclined to forget his former state 
of mind and the starting-point of his religious crisis, which 
was purely Christian : 

"The doctrine of Jesus," he writes, "is to me only one 
of the beautiful doctrines which we have received from the 
ancient civilisations of Egypt, Israel, Hindostan, China, 
Greece. The two great principles of Jesus : the love of God, 
that is, of absolute perfection, and the love of one's neighbour, 
that is, of all men without distinction, have been preached 
by all the sages of the world: Krishna, Buddha, Lao-Tse, 
Confucius, Socrates, Plato, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, and, 
among the moderns, Rousseau, Pascal, Kant, Emerson, 
Channing, and many others. Truth, moral and religious, is 
everywhere and always the same. ... I have no predilection 



120 TOLSTOY 

them, as he knows how to defend ; defends them 
by attacking those whom he calls "the Scribes" 
and " the Pharisees " ; by attacking the established 
Churches and the representatives of arrogant science, 
or rather of "scientific philosophism." Not that 
he appealed from reason to revelation. Once 
escaped from the period of distress described in his 
Confessions, he remained essentially a believer in 
Reason ; one might indeed say a mystic of Reason. 

" In the beginning was the Word," he says, with 
St. John ; "the Word, Logos, that is, Reason*" l 

A book of his entitled Life (1887) bears as 
epigraph the famous lines of Pascal: 3 

"Man is nothing but a reed, the most feeble 
thing in nature, but he is a thinking reed. . . . All 
our dignity resides in thought. . . . Let us then 
strive to think well : that is the principle of 
morality." 

The whole book, moreover, is nothing but a 
hymn to Reason. 

It is true that Tolstoy's Reason is not the scien- 
tific reason, the restricted reason " which takes the 

for Christianity. If I have been particularly attracted by the 
teaching of Jesus, it is (1) because I was born and have lived 
among Christians, and (2) because I have found a great 
spiritual joy in disengaging the pure doctrine from the 
astonishing falsifications created by the Churches." 

1 Tolstoy protests that he does not attack true science, 
which is modest and knows its limits. (Life, chap. iv. There 
is a French version by Countess Tolstoy.) 

3 Tolstoy often read the Pensies during the period of this 
crisis, which preceded the Confessions. He speaks of Pascal 
in his letters to Fet (April 14, 1877, August 3, 1879), recom- 
mending his friend to read the Pensies. 



THE CRISIS 121 

part for the whole and physical life for the whole of 
life," but the sovereign law which rules the life 
of man, "the law according to which reasonable 
beings, that is men, must of necessity live their 
lives." 

" It is a law analogous to those which regulate 
the nutrition and the reproduction of the animal, 
the growth and the blossoming of herb and of tree, 
the movement of the earth and the planets. It is 
only in the accomplishment of this law, in the 
submission of our animal nature to the law of 
reason, with a view to acquiring goodness, that we 
truly live. . . . Reason cannot be defined, and we 
have no need to define it, for not only do 
we all know it, but we know nothing else. . . . 
All that man knows he knows by means of reason 
and not by faith. . . . x True life commences only 
at the moment when reason is manifested. The 
only real life is the life of reason." 

Then what is the visible life, our individual 
existence ? "It is not our life," says Tolstoy, "for 
it does not depend upon ourselves. 

" Our animal activity is accomplished without 
ourselves. . . . Humanity has done with the idea 
of life considered as an individual existence. The 

1 In a letter Upon Reason, written on November 26, 1894, 
to Baroness X (reproduced in The Revolutionaries, 1906), 
Tolstoy says the same thing : 

" Man has received directly from God one sole instrument 
by which he may know himself and his relations with the 
world : there is no other means. This instrument is reason. 
Reason comes from God. It is not only the highest human 
quality, but the only means by which the truth is to be known." 



122 TOLSTOY 

negation of the possibility of individual good 
remains an unchangeable truth for every man of 
our period who is endowed with reason." 

Then follows a long series of postulates, which 
I will not here discuss, but which show how 
Tolstoy was obsessed by the idea of reason. It 
was in fact a passion, no less blind or jealous 
than the other passions which had possessed him 
during the earlier part of his life. One fire was 
flickering out, the other was kindling ; or rather it 
was always the same fire, but fed with a different 
fuel. 

A fact which adds to the resemblance between 
the " individual " passions and this " rational " 
passion is that neither those nor this can be satisfied 
with loving. They seek to act ; they long for 
realisation. 

" Christ has said, we must not speak, but act." 

And what is the activity of reason ? Love. 

" Love is the only reasonable activity of man ; 
love is the most reasonable and most enlightened 
state of the soul. All that man needs is that nothing 
shall obscure the sun of reason, for that alone can 
help him to grow. . . . Love is the actual good, the 
supreme good which resolves all the contradictions 
of life ; which not only dissipates the fear of death, 
but impels man to sacrifice himself to others : for 
there is no love but that which enables a man to 
give his life for those he loves : love is not worthy 
of the name unless it is a sacrifice of self. And the 
true love can only be realised when man under- 
stands that it is not possible for him to acquire 



THE CRISIS 123 

individual happiness. It is then that all the streams 
of his life go to nourish the noble graft of the true 
love : and this graft borrows for its increase all the 
energies of the wild stock of animal individu- 
ality. 

Thus Tolstoy did not come to the refuge of 
faith like an exhausted river which loses itself 
among the sands. He brought to it the torrent of 
impetuous energies amassed during a full and 
virile life. This we shall presently see. 

This impassioned faith, in which Love and 
Reason are united in a close embrace, has found 
its most dignified expression in the famous reply 
to the Holy Synod which excommunicated him : 2 

" I believe in God, who for me is Love, the Spirit, 
the Principle of all things. I believe that He is in 
me as I am in Him. I believe that the will of God 
has never been more clearly expressed than in the 
teaching of the man Christ ; but we cannot regard 
Qhrist as God and address our prayers to him with- 
out committing the greatest sacrilege. I believe 
that the true happiness of man consists in the 
accomplishment of the will of God ; I believe that 
the will of God is that every man shall love his 
fellows and do unto them always as he would they 
should do unto him, which contains, as the Bible 

1 Life, xxii.-xxv. As in the case of most of these quo- 
tations, I am expressing the sense of several chapters in a few 
characteristic phrases. 

9 I hope later, when the complete works of Tolstoy have 
been published, to study the various shades of this religious 
idea, which has certainly evolved in respect of many points, 
notably in respect of the conception of future life. 



124 TOLSTOY 

says, all the law and the prophets. I believe that 
the meaning of life for each one of us is only to 
increase the love within him ; I believe that this 
development of our power of loving will reward us 
in this life with a happiness which will increase 
day by day, and with a more perfect felicity in the 
other world. I believe that this increase of love 
will contribute, more than any other factor, to 
founding the kingdom of God upon earth ; that is, 
to replacing an organisation of life in which division, 
deceit, and violence are omnipotent, by a new 
order in which concord, truth, and brotherhood 
will reign. I believe that we have only one means 
of growing richer in love : namely, our prayers. 
Not public prayer in the temple, which Christ has 
formally reproved (Matt. vi. 5-13), but the prayer 
of which he himself has given as an example ; the 
solitary prayer which confirms in us the con- 
sciousness of the meaning of our life and the 
feeling that we depend solely upon the will of 
God. ... I believe in life eternal ; I believe that 
man is rewarded according to his acts, here and 
everywhere, now and for ever. I believe all these 
things so firmly that at my age, on the verge of the 
tomb, I have often to make an effort not to pray 
for the death of my body, that is, my birth into a 
new life." x 

1 From a translation in the Temps for May I, 190 1. 



XI 
REALITY 



CHAPTER XI 

REALITY 

He thought he had arrived in port, had achieved 
the haven in which his unquiet soul might take its 
repose. He was only at the beginning of a new 
period of activity. 

A winter passed in Moscow (his family duties 
having obliged him to follow his family thither), 1 
and the taking of the census, in which he con- 
trived to lend a hand, gave him the occasion to 
examine at first hand the poverty of a great city. 
The impression produced upon him was terrible. 
On the evening of the day when he first came 
into contact with this hidden plague of civilisa- 
tion, while relating to a friend what he had seen, 
" he began to shout, to weep, and to brandish his 
fist." 

" People can't live like that ! " he cried, sobbing. 
u It cannot be ! It cannot be ! " He fell into a state 
of terrible despair, which did not leave him for 
months. Countess Tolstoy wrote to him on the 3rd 
of March, 1882 : 

1 "I had hitherto passed my whole life away from the 
city." (What shall we do?) 

127 



128 TOLSTOY 

" You used to say, ' I used to want to hang 
myself because of my lack of faith.' Now you 
have faith : why then are you so unhappy ? " 

Because he had not the sanctimonious, self- 
satisfied faith of the Pharisee ; because he had not 
the egoism of the mystic, who is too completely 
absorbed in the matter of his own salvation to think 
of the salvation of others " ; x because he knew love ; 
because he could no longer forget the miserable 
creatures he had seen, and in the passionate tender- 
ness of his heart he felt as though he were respon- 
sible for their sufferings and their abjectness ; they 
were the victims of that civilisation in whose 
privileges he shared ; of that monstrous idol to 
which an elect and superior class was always sacrifi- 
cing millions of human beings. To accept the 
benefit of such crimes was to become an accom- 
plice. His conscience would have given him no 
repose had he not denounced them. 

x Tolstoy has many times expressed his antipathy for the 
"ascetics, who live for themselves only, apart from their 
fellows." He puts them in the same class as the conceited 
and ignorant revolutionists, "who pretend to do good to 
others without knowing what it is that they themselves need. 
... I love these two categories of men with the same 
love, but I hate their doctrines with the same hate. The 
only doctrine is that which orders a constant activity, 
an existence which responds to the aspirations of the soul 
and endeavours to realise the happiness of others. Such is the 
Christian doctrine. Equally remote from religious quietism 
and the arrogant pretensions of the revolutionists, who seek 
to transform the world without knowing in what real happi- 
ness consists." (Letters to a friend, published in the volume 
entitled Cruel Pleasures, 1895.) 



REALITY- 129 

What shall we do f (1884-86) is the expression 
of this second crisis ; a crisis far more tragic than 
the first, and far richer in consequences. What 
were the personal religious sufferings of Tolstoy 
in this ocean of human wretchedness of material 
misery, not misery created by the mind of a self- 
wearied idler ? It was impossible for him to shut 
his eyes to it, and having seen it he could but strive, 
at any cost, to prevent it. Alas ! was such a thing 
possible ? 

An admirable portrait, 1 which I cannot look at 
without emotion, tells us plainly what suffering 
Tolstoy was then enduring. It shows him facing the 
camera ; seated, with his arms crossed ; he is wear- 
a moujik's blouse. He looks overwhelmed. His 
hair is still black, but his moustache is already grey, 
and his long beard and whiskers are quite white. 
A double furrow traces symmetrical lines in the 
large, comely face. There is so much goodness, 
such tenderness, in the great dog-like muzzle, in the 
eyes that regard you with so frank, so clear, so 
sorrowful a look. They read your mind so surely ! 
They pity and implore. The face is furrowed and 
bears traces of suffering ; there are heavy creases 
beneath the eyes. He has wept. But he is strong, 
and ready for the fight. 

His logic was heroic : 

" I am always astonished by these words, so 
often repeated : ' Yes, it is well enough in theory, 
but how would it be in practice ? " As if theory 

1 A daguerreotype of 1885, reproduced in What shall we 
do ? in the complete French edition. 

9 



130 TOLSTOY 

consisted in pretty words, necessary for conversa- 
tion, and was not in the least something to which 
practice should conform ! When I come to under- 
stand a matter on which I have reflected, I cannot 
do otherwise than as I have understood." 1 

He begins by describing, with photographic 
exactitude, the poverty of Moscow as he has seen 
it in the course of his visits to the poorer quarters 
or the night-shelters. 2 

He is convinced that money is not the power, as 
he had at first supposed, which will save these 
unhappy creatures, all more or less tainted by the 
corruption of the cities. Then he seeks bravely 
for the source of the evil ; unwinding link upon link 
of the terrible chain of responsibility. First come 
the rich, with the contagion of their accursed luxury, 
which entices and depraves the soul. 3 Then comes 
the universal seduction of life without labour. 
Then the State, that murderous entity, created by 
the violent in order that they might for their own 
profit despoil and enslave the rest of humanity. 
Then the Church, an accomplice ; science and 
art, accomplices. How is a man to oppose this 
army of evil ? In the first place, by refusing to 

1 What shall we do * 

" All the first part of the book (the first fifteen chapters). 

' "The true cause of poverty is the accumulation of 
riches in the hands of those who do not produce, and are 
concentrated in the cities. The wealthy classes are gathered 
together in the cities in order to enjoy and to defend them- 
selves. And the poor man comes to feed upon the crumbs of 
the rich. He is drawn thither by the snare of easy gain : by 
peddling, begging, swindling, or in the service of immorality." 



REALITY 131 

join it. By refusing to share in the exploitation of 
humanity. By renouncing wealth and ownership 
of the soil, 1 and by refusing to serve the State. 

But this is not sufficient. One "must not lie," 
nor be afraid of the truth. One " must repent," and 
uproot the pride that is implanted by education. 
Finally, one must work with one's hands. " Thou 
shall win thy bread in the sweat of thy brow " is the 
first commandment and the most essential. 2 And 
Tolstoy, replying in advance to the ridicule of the 
elect, maintains that physical labour does not in any 
way decrease the energy of the intellect ; but that, on 
the contrary, it increases it, and that it responds to 
the normal demand of nature. Health can only 

1 " The pivot of the evil is property. Property is merely 
the means of enjoying the labour of others." Property, he 
says again, is that which is not ours: it represents other 
people. "Man calls his wife, his children, his slaves, his 
goods his property, but reality shows him his error ; and he 
must renounce his property or suffer and cause others to 
suffer." 

Tolstoy was already urging the Russian revolution : " For 
three or four years now men have cursed us on the highway 
and called us sluggards and skulkers. The hatred and 
contempt of the downtrodden people are becoming more 
intense." {What shall we do ?) 

* The peasant-revolutionist Bondarev would have had 
this law recognised as a universal obligation. Tolstoy 
was then subject to his influence, as also to that of another 
peasant, Sutayev. " During the whole of my life two Russian 
thinkers have had a great moral influence over me, have 
enriched my mind, and have elucidated for me my own con- 
ception of the world. They were two peasants, Sutayev and 
Bondarev." (What shall we dot) 

In the same book Tolstoy gives us a portrait of Sutayev, and 
records a conversation with him. 



132 TOLSTOY 

gain thereby ; art will gain even more. But what 
is more important still, it will re-establish the union 
of man with man. 

In his subsequent works, Tolstoy was to com- 
plete these precepts of moral hygiene. He 
was anxious to achieve the cure of the soul, to 
replenish its energy, by proscribing the vicious 
pleasures which deaden the conscience 1 and the 
cruel pleasures which kill it. 2 He himself set the 
example. In 1884, he sacrificed his most deeply 
rooted passion : his love of the chase.3 He practised 
abstinence, which strengthens the will. So an 
athlete may subject himself to some painful 
discipline that he may grapple with it and conquer. 

What shall we do f marks the first stage of the 
difficult journey upon which Tolstoy was about to 
embark, quitting the relative peace of religious 
meditation for the social maelstrom. It was then 
that the twenty years' war commenced which the 
old prophet of Yasnaya Polyana waged in the name 
of the Gospel, single-handed, outside the limits of 
all parties, and condemning all ; a war upon the 
crimes and lies of civilisation. 

1 Vicious Pleasures, or in the French translation Alcohol 
and Tobacco, 1895. 

3 Cruel Pleasures (the Meat-eaters; War; Hunting), 1895. 

3 The sacrifice was difficult ; the passion inherited. He 
was not sentimental ; he never felt much pity for animals. 
For him all things fell into three planes : " 1. Reasoning 
beings ; 2. animals and plants ; 3. inanimate matter." He 
was not without a trace of native cruelty. He relates the 
pleasure he felt in watching the struggles of a wolf which 
he killed. Remorse was of later growth. 



XII 

ART AND 
CONSCIENCE 



CHAPTER XII 

ART AND CONSCIENCE 

This moral revolution of Tolstoy's met with little 
sympathy from his immediate world ; his family and 
his relatives were appalled by it. 

For a long time Countess Tolstoy had been 
anxiously watching the progress of a symptom 
against which she had fought in vain. As early as 
1874 she had seen with indignation the amount of 
time and energy which her husband spent in con- 
nection with the schools. 

"This spelling-book, this arithmetic, this grammar 
I feel a contempt for them, and I cannot assume a 
semblance of interest in them." 

Matters were very different when pedagogy was 
succeeded by religion. So hostile was the Countess's 
reception of the first confidences of the convert that 
Tolstoy felt obliged to apologise when he spoke 
of God in his letters : 

" Do not be vexed, as you so often are when I 
mention God ; I cannot help it, for He is the very 
basis of my thought." x 

1 The summer of 1878. 

135 



136 TOLSTOY 

The Countess was touched, no doubt ; she tried to 
conceal her impatience ; but she did not under- 
stand ; and she watched her husband anxiously. 

"His eyes are strange and fixed. He scarcely 
speaks. He does not seem to belong to this world." 

She feared he was ill. 

"Leo is always working, by what he tells me. 
Alas ! he is writing religious discussions of some 
kind. He reads and he ponders until he gives him- 
self the headache, and all this to prove that the 
Church is not in agreement with the teaching of the 
Gospel. He will hardly find a dozen people in 
Russia whom the matter could possibly interest. 
But there is nothing to be done. I have only one 
hope : that he will be done with it all the sooner, 
and that it will pass off like an illness." 

The illness did not pass away. The situation 
between husband and wife became more and more 
painful. They loved one another ; each had a 
profound esteem for the other ; but it was impossible 
for them to understand one another. They strove 
to make mutual concessions, which became as 
is usually the case a form of mutual torment. 
Tolstoy forced himself to follow his family to 
Moscow. He wrote in his Journal : 

"The most painful month of my life. Getting 
settled in Moscow. All are settling down. But 
when, then, will they begin to live ? All this, not 
in order to live, but because other folk do the same. 
Unhappy people ! "* 

During these days the Countess wrote : 
1 October 8, 1881. Vie et (Euvre. 



ART AND CONSCIENCE 137 

" Moscow. We shall have been here a month to- 
morrow. The first two weeks I cried every day, for 
Leo was not only sad, but absolutely broken. He 
did not sleep, he did not eat, at times even he wept ; 
I thought I should go mad." x 

For a time they had to live their lives apart. 
They begged one another's pardon for causing 
mutual suffering. We see how they always loved 
each other. He writes to her : 

" You say, ' I love you, and you do not need my 
love.' It is the only thing I do need. . . . Your 
love causes me more gladness than anything in 
the world." 

But as soon as they are together again the same 
discord occurs. The Countess cannot share this 
religious mania which is now impelling Tolstoy to 
study Hebrew with a rabbi. 

" Nothing else interests him any longer. He is 
wasting his energies in foolishness. I cannot 
conceal my impatience." a 

She writes to him : 

" It can only sadden me that such intellectual 
energies should spend themselves in chopping 
wood, heating the samovar, and cobbling boots." 

She adds, with affectionate, half-ironical humour 
of a mother who watches a child playing a foolish 
game : 

" Finally, I have pacified myself with the Russian 
proverb : ( Let the child play as he will, so long as 
he doesn't cry.' " 3 

1 October 14. Vie et (Euvre. a 1882. 

3 October 23, 1884. Vie et (Euvre. 



138 TOLSTOY 

Before the letter was posted she had a mental 
vision of her husband reading these lines, his kind, 
frank eyes saddened by their ironical tone ; and she 
re-opened the letter, in an impulse of affection : 

" Quite suddenly I saw you so clearly, and I felt 
such a rush of tenderness for you 1 There is some- 
thing in you so wise, so naive, so persevering, and it 
is all lit up by the radiance of goodness, and that 
look of yours which goes straight to the soul. . . . 
It is something that belongs to you alone." 

In this manner these two creatures who loved 
also tormented one another and were straightway 
stricken with wretchedness because of the pain they 
had the power to inflict but not the power to avoid. 
A situation with no escape, which lasted for nearly 
thirty years ; which was to be terminated only by 
the flight across the steppes, in a moment of aberra- 
tion, of the ancient Lear, with death already upon 
him. 

Critics have not sufficiently remarked the moving 
appeal to women which terminates What shall wedof 
Tolstoy had no sympathy for modern feminism. 1 
But of the type whom he calls "the mother-woman," 
the woman who knows the real meaning of life, 
he speaks in terms of pious admiration ; he pro- 
nounces a magnificent eulogy of her pains and her 
joys, of pregnancy and maternity, of the terrible 

1 "The so-called right of women is merely the desire to 
participate in the imaginary labours of the wealthy classes, 
with a view to enjoying the fruit of the labour of others and 
to live a life that satisfies the sensual appetites. No genuine 
labourer's wife demands the right to share her husband's 
work in the mines or in the fields." 



ART AND CONSCIENCE 139 

sufferings, the years without rest, the invisible, 
exhausting travail for which no reward is expected, 
and of that beatitude which floods the soul at 
the happy issue from labour, when the body has 
accomplished the Law. He draws the portrait of the 
valiant wife who is a help, not an obstacle, to her 
husband. She knows that " the vocation of man is 
the obscure, lonely sacrifice, unrewarded, for the 
life of others." 

" Such a woman will not only not encourage her 
husband in factitious and meriticious work whose 
only end is to profit by and enjoy the labour of 
others; but she will regard such activity with horror 
and disgust, as a possible seduction for her children. 
She will demand of her companion a true labour, 
which will call for energy and does not fear danger. 
. . . She knows that the children, the genera- 
tions to come, are given to men as their holiest 
vision, and that she exists to further, with all her 
being, this sacred task. She will develop in her 
children and in her husband the strength of sacrifice. 
. . . It is such women who rule men and serve 
as their guiding star. . . . O mother- women 1 In 
your hands is the salvation of the world 1 " * 

This appeal of a voice of supplication, which still 
has hope will it not be heard ? 

A few years later the last glimmer of hope was 
dead. 

u Perhaps you will not believe me ; but you 
cannot imagine how isolated I am, nor in what a 

* These are the last lines of What shall we do ? They are 
dated the 14th of February, 1886. 



140 TOLSTOY 

degree my veritable / is despised and disregarded by 
all those about me." * 

If those who loved him best so misunderstood the 
grandeur of the moral transformation which Tolstoy 
was undergoing, one could not look for more 
penetration or greater respect in others. Tourgenev 
with whom he had sought to effect a reconciliation, 
rather in a spirit of Christian humility than because 
his feelings towards him had suffered any change, 3 
said ironically of Tolstoy : " I pity him greatly ; 
but after all, as the French say, every one kills his 
own fleas in his own way." 3 

A few years later, when on the point of death, he 
wrote to Tolstoy the well-known letter in which he 
prayed " his friend, the great writer of the Russian 
world," to " return to literature." 4 

All the artists of Europe shared the anxiety and 
the prayer of the dying Tourgenev. Melchior de 
Vogud, at the end of his study of Tolstoy, written in 
1 886, made a portrait of the writer in peasant 
costume, handling a drill, the pretext for an eloquent 
apostrophe : 

"Craftsman, maker of masterpieces, this is not 

1 A letter to a friend, published under the title Profession of 
Faith, in the volume entitled Cruel Pleasures, 1895. 

* The reconciliation took place in the spring of 1878. 
Tolstoy wrote to Tourgenev asking his pardon. Tourgenev 
went to Yasnaya Polyana in August, 1878. Tolstoy returned 
his visit in July, 1881. Every one was struck with the change 
in his manner, his gentleness and his modesty. He was "as 
though regenerated." 

3 Letter to Polonski (quoted by Birukov). 

4 Letter to Bougival June 28, 1883. 



ART AND CONSCIENCE 141 

your tool! . . . Our tool is the pen; our field, 
the human soul, which we must shelter and 
nourish. Let us remind you of the words of a 
Russian peasant, of the the first printer of Moscow, 
when he was sent back to the plough : * It is not 
my business to sow grains of corn, but to sow the 
seed of the spirit broadcast in the world.' " 

As though Tolstoy had ever renounced his voca- 
tion as a sower of the seed of the mind ! In the 
Introduction to What I Believe he wrote : 

" I believe that my life, my reason, my light, is 
given me exclusively for the purpose of enlightening 
my fellows. I believe that my knowledge of the 
truth is a talent which is lent me for this object; that 
this talent is a fire which is a fire only when it is 
being consumed. I believe that the only meaning 
of my life is that I should live it only by the light 
within me, and should hold that light on high before 
men that they may see it." 1 

But this light, this fire "which was a fire only 
when it was being consumed," was a cause of 
anxiety to the majority of Tolstoy's fellow-artists. 
The more intelligent could not but suspect that 

* We find that M. de Vogue, in the reproach which he 
addressed to Tolstoy, unconsciously used the phrases of 
Tolstoy himself. "Rightly or wrongly," he said, "for our 
chastisement perhaps, we have received from heaven that 
splendid and essential evil : thought. ... To throw down 
this cross is an impious revolt." (Le Roman russe, 1886.) 
Now Tolstoy wrote to his aunt, the Countess A. A. Tolstoy, in 
1883 : " Each of us must bear his cross. . . . Mine is the 
travail of the idea ; evil, full of pride and seductiveness." 
(Letters.) 



142 TOLSTOY 

there was a great risk that their art would be the 
first prey of the conflagration. They professed to 
believe that the whole art of literature was menaced ; 
that the Russian, like Prospero, was burying for ever 
his magic ring with its power of creative illusion. 

Nothing was further from the truth ; and I hope 
to show that so far from ruining his art Tolstoy was 
awakening forces which had lain fallow, and that 
his religious faith, instead of killing his artistic 
genius, regenerated it completely. 



XIII 

SCIENCE 

AND 

ART 



CHAPTER XIII 

SCIENCE AND ART 

It is a singular fact that in speaking of Tolstoy's 
ideas concerning science and art, the most im- 
portant of the books in which these ideas are 
expressed namely, What shall we do f (1884-86) 
is commonly ignored. There, for the first time, 
Tolstoy fights the battle between art and science; 
and none of the following conflicts was to surpass 
the violence of their first encounter. It is a matter 
for surprise that no one, during the assaults which 
have been recently delivered in France upon the 
vanity of science and the intellectuals, has thought 
of referring to these pages. They constitute the 
most terrible attack ever penned against " the 
eunuchs of science " and " the corsairs of art " ; 
against those intellectual castes which, having 
destroyed the old ruling castes of the Church, 
the State, and the Army, have installed themselves 
in their place, and, without being able or willing to 
perform any service of use to humanity, lay claim 
to a blind admiration and service, proclaiming as 
dogmas an impudent faith in science for the sake 

10 145 



146 TOLSTOY 

of science and in art for the sake of art the lying 
mask which they seek to make their justification and 
the apology for their monstrous egoism and their 
emptiness. 

" Never make me say," continues Tolstoy, " that 
I deny art or science. Not only do I not deny 
them ; it is in their name that I seek to drive the 
thieves from the temple." 

"Science and art are as necessary as bread and 
water ; even more necessary. . . . The true science 
is that of the true welfare of all human beings. The 
true art is the expression of the knowledge of the 
true welfare of all men." 

And he praises those who, u since men have 
existed, have with the harp or the cymbal, by 
images or by words, expressed their struggle against 
duplicity, their sufferings in that struggle, their 
hope in the triumph of good, their despair at the 
triumph of evil, and the enthusiasm of their pro- 
phetic vision of the future." 

He then draws the character of the perfect artist, 
in a page burning with mystical and melancholy 
earnestness : 

" The activity of science and art is only fruitful 
when it arrogates no right to itself and considers 
only its duties. It is only because that activity is 
such as it is, because its essence is sacrifice, that 
humanity honours it. The men who are called to 
serve others by spiritual work always suffer in the 
accomplishment of that task ; for the spiritual world 
is brought to birth only in suffering and torture. 
Sacrifice and suffering ; such is the fate of the 



SCIENCE AND ART 147 

thinker and the artist, for his fate is the good of 
men. Men are unhappy ; they suffer ; they die ; 
there is no time for him to stroll about, to amuse 
himself. The thinker or the artist never strays upon 
Olympian heights, as we are accustomed to think ; 
he is always in a state of conflict, always in a 
state of emotion. He must decide and must say 
what will further the welfare of men, what will 
deliver them from suffering; and he has not decided 
it, he has not said it ; and to-morrow it will per- 
haps be too late, and he will die. . . . The man 
who is trained in an establishment in which artists 
and scientists are formed (to tell the truth, such 
places make destroyers of art and of science) ; the 
man who receives diplomas and a pension he will 
not be an artist or a thinker ; but he who would 
be happy not to think, not to express what is im- 
planted in his mind, yet cannot refrain from thought 
and self-expression : for he is carried along by two 
invisible forces : his inner need and his love of 
men. There are no artists who are fat, lovers of 
life, and satisfied with themselves." 1 

-This splendid page, which throws a tragic light 
upon the genius of Tolstoy, was written under the 
immediate stress of the suffering caused him by 
the poverty of Moscow, and under the conviction 
that science and art were the accomplices of the 
entire modern system of social inequality and 
hypocritical brutality. This conviction he was 
never to lose. But the impression of his first 
encounter with the misery of the world slowly 
1 What shall we do f p. 378-9. 



148 TOLSTOY 

faded, and became less poignant ; the wound 
healed, 1 and in none of his subsequent books do 
we recover the tremor of pain and of vengeful 
anger which vibrates in this; nowhere do we find 
this sublime profession of the faith of the artist who 
creates with his life-blood, this exaltation of the sacri- 
fice and suffering " which are the lot of the thinker" ; 
this disdain for Olympian art. Those of his later 
works which deal with the criticism of art will be 
found to treat the question from a standpoint at 
once more literary and less mystical ; the problem 
of art is detached from the background of that 
human wretchedness of which Tolstoy could not 
think without losing his self-control, as on the night 
of his visit to the night-shelter, when upon returning 
home he sobbed and cried aloud in desperation. 

I do not mean to suggest that these didactic 
works are ever frigid. It is impossible for Tolstoy 
to be frigid. Until the end of his life he is the man 
who writes to Fet : 

"If he does not love his personages, even the 
least of them, then he must insult them in such a 
way as to make the heavens fall, or must mock at 
them until he splits his sides." 2 

1 In time he even came to justify suffering not only per- 
sonal suffering, but the sufferings of others. " For the assuage- 
ment of the sufferings of others is the essence of the rational 
life. How then should the object of labour be an object of 
suffering for the labourer ? It is as though the labourer were 
to say that an untilled field is a grief to him." (Life, chap, 
xxxiv.-xxxv.) 

9 February 23, i860. Further Letters, pp. 19-20. It was for 
this reason that the "melancholy and dyspeptic" art of 
Tourgenev displeased him. 



SCIENCE AND ART 149 

He does not forget to do so, in his writings on art. 
The negative portion of this statement brimming 
over with insults and sarcasms is so vigorously 
expressed that it is the only part which has struck 
the artist. This method has so violently wounded 
the superstitions and susceptibilities of the brother- 
hood that they inevitably see, in the enemy of their 
own art, the enemy of all art whatsoever. But 
Tolstoy's criticism is never devoid of the recon- 
structive element. He never destroys for the sake 
of destruction, but only to rebuild. In his modesty 
he does not even profess to build anything new; he 
merely defends Art, which was and ever shall be, 
from the false artists who exploit it and dishonour it. 

"True science and true art have always existed 
and will always exist ; it is impossible and useless 
to attack them," he wrote to me in 1887, in a letter 
which anticipated by more than ten years his 
famous criticism of art (What is Art?) J "All the 
evil of the day comes from the fact that so-called 
civilised people, together with the scientists and 
artists, form a privileged caste, like so many priests ; 
and this caste has all the faults of all castes. It 
degrades and lowers the principle in virtue of 
which it was organised. What we in our world 
call the sciences and the arts is merely a gigantic 
humbug, a gross superstition into which we cora- 

1 This letter (October 4, 1887) has been printed in the 
Cahiers de la Quinzaine, 1902, and in the Further Letters 
(Correspondance inidile), 1907. What is Art? appeared in 
1897-98 ; but Tolstoy had been pondering the matter for more 
than fourteen years. 



150 TOLSTOY 

monly fall as soon as we free ourselves from the 
old superstition of the Church. To keep safely to 
the road we ought to follow we must begin at the 
beginning we must raise the cowl which keeps us 
warm but obscures our sight. The temptation is 
great. We are born or we clamber upon the rungs 
of the ladder ; and we find among the privileged the 
priests of civilisation, of Kultur, as the Germans 
have it. Like the Brahmin or Catholic priests, we 
must have a great deal of sincerity and a great love 
of the truth before we cast doubts upon the prin- 
ciples which assure us of our advantageous position. 
But a serious man who ponders the riddle of life 
cannot hesitate. To begin to see clearly he must 
free himself from his superstitions, however profit- 
able they may be to him. This is a condition 
sine qua non. ... To have no superstition. To 
force oneself into the attitude of a child or a 
Descartes." 

This superstition of modern art, in which the 
interested castes believe, "this gigantic humbug," 
is denounced in Tolstoy's What is Artf With a 
somewhat ungentle zest he holds it up to ridicule, 
and exposes its hypocrisy, its poverty, and its 
fundamental corruption. He makes a clean sweep 
of everything. He brings to this work of demo- 
lition the joy of a child breaking his toys. The 
whole of this critical portion is often full of humour, 
but sometimes of injustice : it is warfare. Tolstoy 
used all weapons that came to his hand, and struck 
at hazard, without noticing whom he struck. Often 
enough it happened as in all battles that he 



SCIENCE AND ART 151 

wounded those whom it should have been his 
duty to defend : Ibsen or Beethoven. This was 
the result of his enthusiasm, which left him no time 
to reflect before acting ; of his passion, which often 
blinded him to the weakness of his reasons, and 
let us say it it was also the result of his incomplete 
artistic culture. 

Setting aside his literary studies, what could he 
well know of contemporary art ? When was he 
able to study painting, and what could he have 
heard of European music, this country gentleman 
who had passed three-fourths of his life in his 
Muscovite village, and who had not visited Europe 
since i860 ; and what did he see when he was upon 
his travels, except the schools, which were all that 
interested him ? He speaks of paintings from 
hearsay, citing pell-mell among the decadents such 
painters as Puvis de Chavannes, Manet, Monet, 
Bocklin, Stuck, and Klinger ; confidently admiring 
Jules Breton and Lhermitte on account of their 
excellent sentiments ; despising Michelangelo, and 
among the painters of the soul never once naming 
Rembrandt. In music he felt his way better, 1 but 
knew hardly anything of it ; he could not get 
beyond the impressions of his childhood, swore by 
those who were already classics about 1840, and 
had not become familiar with any later composers 
(excepting Tchaikowsky, whose music made him 
weep) ; he throws Brahms and Richard Strauss into 
the bottom of the same bag, teaches Beethoven his 

* I shall return to this matter when speaking of the Kreutzei 
Sonata. 



152 TOLSTOY 

business, 1 and, in order to judge Wagner, he 
thought it was sufficient to attend a single repre- 
sentation of Siegfried, at which he arrived after the 
rise of the curtain, while he left in the middle of the 
second act. 2 In the matter of literature he is, it 
goes without saying, rather better informed. But 
by what curious aberration did he evade the 
criticism of the Russian writers whom he knew so 
well, while he laid down the law to foreign poets, 
whose temperament was as far as possible removed 
from his own, and whose leaves he merely turned 
with contemptuous negligence 1 3 

His intrepid assurance increased with age. It 
finally impelled him to write a book for the purpose 
of proving that Shakespeare " was not an artist." 

" He may have been no matter what : but he 
was not an artist." 4 

1 His intolerance became aggravated after 1886. In What 
shall we do ? he did not as yet dare to lay hands on Beethoven 
or on Shakespeare. Moreover, he reproached contemporary 
artists for daring to invoke their names. " The activity of a 
Galileo, a Shakespeare, a Beethoven has nothing in common 
with that of a Tyndall, a Victor Hugo, or a Wagner ; just 
as the Holy Father would deny all relationship with the 
Orthodox popes." (What shall we do f) 

a For that matter, he wished to leave before the end of the 
first act. " For me the question was settled. I had no more 
doubt. There was nothing to be expected of an author capable 
of imagining scenes like these. One could affirm beforehand 
that he could never write anything that was not evil." 

3 In order to make a selection from the French poets of the 
new schools he conceived the admirable idea of " copying, in 
each volume, the verses printed on page 28 1 " 

4 Shakespeare, 1903. The book was written on the occasion 
of an article by Ernest Crosby upon Shakespeare and the 
Working Classes. 



SCIENCE AND ART 153 

His certitude is admirable. Tolstoy does not 
doubt. He does not discuss. The truth is his. 
He will tell you : 

"The Ninth Symphony is a work which causes 
social disunion." 

Again : 

" With the exception of the celebrated air for the 
violin by Bach, the Nocturne in E flat by Chopin, 
and a dozen pieces, not even entire, chosen from 
among the works of Hadyn, Mozart, Weber, 
Beethoven, and Chopin, ... all the rest may be 
rejected and treated with contempt, as examples of 
an art which causes social disunion." 

Again : 

"I am going to prove that Shakespeare cannot 
be ranked even as a writer of the fourth order. 
And as a character-painter he is nowhere." 

That the rest of humanity is of a different opinion 
is no reason for hesitating : on the contrary. 

" My opinion," he proudly says, " is entirely 
different from the established opinion concerning 
Shakespeare throughout Europe." 

Obsessed by his hatred of lies, he scents untruth 
everywhere ; and the more widely an idea is 
received, the more prickly he becomes in his 
treatment of it ; he refuses it, suspecting in it, as 
he says with reference to the fame of Shakespeare, 
" one of those epidemic influences to which men 
have always been subject. Such were the Crusades 
in the Middle Ages, the belief in witchcraft, the 
search for the philosopher's stone, and the passion 
for tulips. Men see the folly of these influences 



154 TOLSTOY 

only when they have won free from them. With 
the development of the press these epidemics have 
become particularly notable." And he gives as 
an example the most recent of these contagious 
diseases, the Dreyfus Affair, of which he, the enemy 
of all injustice, the defender of all the oppressed, 
speaks with disdainful indifference ; l a striking 
example of the excesses into which he is drawn by 
his suspicion of untruth and that instinctive hatred 
of "moral epidemics" of which he admits himself 
the victim, and which he is unable to master. It is 
the reverse side of a virtue, this inconceivable 
blindness of the seer, the reader of souls, the 
evoker of passionate forces, which leads him to 
refer to King Lear as "an inept piece of work," 
and to the proud Cordelia as a "characterless 
creature." 3 

1 " Here was one of those incidents which often occur, 
without attracting the attention of any one, and without 
interesting I do not say the world but even the French 
military world." And further on : " It was not until some 
years had passed that men awoke from their hypnosis, and 
understood that they could not possibly know whether Dreyfus 
were guilty or not, and that each of them had other interests 
more important and more immediate than the Affaire 
Dreyfus." {Shakespeare.) 

"King Lear is a very poor drama, very carelessly con- 
structed, which can inspire nothing but weariness and 
disgust." Othello, for which Tolstoy evinces a certain 
sympathy, doubtless because the work is in harmony with 
his ideas of that time concerning marriage and jealousy, 
" while the least wretched of Shakespeare's plays, is only a 
tissue of emphatic words." Hamlet has no character at all : 
" he is the author's phonograph, who repeats all his ideas 
in a string." As for The Tempest, Cymbcline, Troilus ami 



SCIENCE AND ART 155 

Observe that he sees very clearly certain of Shake- 
speare's actual defects faults that we have not the 
sincerity to admit : the artificial quality of the poetic 
diction, which is uniformly attributed to all his 
characters ; and the rhetoric of passion, of heroism, 
and even of simplicity. I can perfectly well under- 
stand that a Tolstoy, who was the least literary of 
writers, should have been lacking in sympathy for 
the art of one who was the most genial of men of 
letters. But why waste time in speaking of that 
which he cannot understand ? What is the worth 
of judgments upon a world which is closed to the 
judge ? 

Nothing, if we seek in these judgments the pass- 
port to these unfamiliar worlds. Inestimably great, 
if we seek in them the key to Tolstoy's art. We do 
not ask of a creative genius the impartiality of the 
critic. When a Wagner or a Tolstoy speaks of 

Cressida, &c, Tolstoy only mentions them on account of 
their " ineptitude." 

The only character of Shakespeare's whom he finds natural 
is Falstaff, "precisely because here the tongue of Shake- 
speare, full of frigid pleasantries and inept puns, is in harmony 
with the false, vain, debauched character of this repulsive 
drunkard." 

Tolstoy had not always been of this opinion. He read 
Shakespeare with pleasure between i860 and 1870, especially 
at the time when he contemplated writing a historical play 
about the figure of Peter the Great. In his notes for 1869 we 
find that he even takes Hamlet as his model and his guide. 
Having mentioned his completed works, and comparing War 
and Peace to the Homeric ideal, he adds : 

" Hamlet and my future works ; the poetry of the romance- 
writer in the depicting of character." 



156 TOLSTOY 

Beethoven or of Shakespeare, he is speaking in 
reality not of Beethoven or of Shakespeare, but of 
himself ; he is revealing his own ideals. They do 
not even try to put us off the scent. Tolstoy, 
in criticising Shakespeare, does not attempt to 
make himself "objective." More : he reproaches 
Shakespeare for his objective art. The painter of 
War and Peace, the master of impersonal art, cannot 
sufficiently deride those German critics who, follow- 
ing the lead of Goethe, " invent Shakespeare," and 
are responsible for " the theory that art ought to be 
objective, that is to say, ought to represent human 
beings without any reference to moral values 
which is the negation of the religious object of 
art." 

It is thus from the pinnacle of a creed that 
Tolstoy pronounces his artistic judgments. We 
must not look for any personal after-thoughts in his 
criticisms. We shall find no trace of such a thing ; 
he is as pitiless to his own works as to those of 
others. 1 What, then, does he really intend ? What 
is the artistic significance of the religious ideal 
which he proposes? 

This ideal is magnificent. The term "religious 
art " is apt to mislead one as to the breadth of the 
conception. Far from narrowing the province of 
art, Tolstoy enlarges it. Art, he says, is everywhere. 

" Art creeps into our whole life ; what we term 

1 He classes his own " works of imagination " in the 
category of "harmful art." (What is Art?) From this 
condemnation he does not except his own plays, " devoid of 
that religious conception which must form the basis of the 
drama of the future." 



SCIENCE AND ART 157 

art, namely, theatres, concerts, books, exhibitions, is 
only an infinitesimal portion of art. Our life is full 
of artistic manifestations of every kind, from the 
games of children to the offices of religion. Art 
and speech are the two organs of human progress. 
One affords the communion of hearts, the other the 
communion of thoughts. If either of the two is 
perverted, then society is sick. The art of to-day is 
perverted." 

Since the Renascence it has no longer been 
possible to speak of the art of the Christian nations. 
Class has separated itself from class. The rich, the 
privileged, have attempted to claim the monopoly 
of art ; and they have made their pleasure the 
criterion of beauty. Art has become impoverished 
as it has grown remoter from the poor. 

"The category of the emotions experienced by 
those who do not work in order to live is far more 
limited than the emotions of those who labour. 
The sentiments of our modern society may be 
reduced to three : pride, sensuality, and weariness 
of life. These three sentiments and their rami- 
fications constitute almost entirely the subject of 
the art of the wealthy." 

It infects the world, perverts the people, propa- 
gates sexual depravity, and has become the worst 
obstacle to the realisation of human happiness. 
It is also devoid of real beauty, unnatural and 
insincere ; an affected, fabricated, cerebral art. 

In the face of this He of the aesthetics, this 
pastime of the rich, let us raise the banner of the 
living, human art : the art which unites the men 



158 TOLSTOY 

of all classes and all nations. The past offers us 
glorious examples of such art. 

"The majority of mankind has always under- 
stood and loved that which we consider the highest 
art : the epic of Genesis, the parables of the 
Gospel, the legends, tales, and songs of the people." 

The greatest art is that which expresses the 
religious conscience of the period. By this Tolstoy 
does not mean the teaching of the Church. "Every 
society has a religious conception of life ; it is the 
ideal of the greatest happiness towards which that 
society tends." All are to a certain extent aware of 
this tendency ; a few pioneers express it clearly. 

" A religious conscience always exists. It is the 

BED IN WHICH THE RIVER FLOWS." 

The religious consciousness of our epoch is the 
aspiration toward happiness as realised by the 
fraternity of mankind. There is no true art but 
that which strives for this union. The highest 
art is that which accomplishes it directly by the 
power of love ; but there is another art which 
participates in the same task, by attacking, with 
the weapons of scorn and indignation, all that 
opposes this fraternity. Such are the novels of 
Dickens and Dostoyevsky, Victor Hugo's Les Miser- 
ables, and the paintings of Millet. But even 
though it fail to attain these heights, all art which 
represents daily life with sympathy and truth 
brings men nearer together. Such is Don Quixote: 
such are the plays of Moliere. It is true that 
such art as the latter is continually sinning by 
its too minute realism and by the poverty of its 



SCIENCE AND ART 159 

subjects "when compared with ancient models, 
such as the sublime history of Joseph." The 
excessive minuteness of detail is detrimental to 
such works, which for that reason cannot become 
universal. 

" Modern works of art are spoiled by a realism 
which might more justly be called the provin- 
cialism of art." 

Thus Tolstoy unhesitatingly condemns the 
principle of his own genius. What does it signify 
to him that he should sacrifice himself to the 
future and that nothing of his work should 
remain ? 

"The art of the future will not be a develop- 
ment of the art of the present: it will be founded 
upon other bases. It will no longer be the 
property of a caste. Art is not a trade or pro- 
fession : it is the expression of real feelings. Now 
the artist can only experience real feelings when 
he refrains from isolating himself ; when he lives 
the life natural to man. For this reason the man 
who is sheltered from life is in the worst possible 
conditions for creative work." 

In the future "artists will all be endowed." 
Artistic activity will be made accessible to all 
"by the introduction into the elementary schools 
of instruction in music and painting, which will 
be taught to the child simultaneously with the 
first principles of grammar." For the rest, art will 
no longer call for a complicated technique, as at 
present ; it will move in the direction of simpli- 
city, clearness, and conciseness, which are the 



160 TOLSTOY 

marks of sane and classic art, and of Homeric 
art. 1 How pleasant it will be to translate universal 
sentiments into the pure lives of this art of the 
future 1 To write a tale or a song, to design a 
picture for millions of beings, is a matter of much 
greater importance and of much greater diffi- 
culty than writing a novel or a symphony. It 
is an immense and almost virgin province. Thanks 
to such works men will learn to appreciate the 
happiness of brotherly union. 

"Art must suppress violence, and only art can 
do so. Its mission is to bring about the Kingdom 
of God, that is to say, of Love." 2 

Which of us would not endorse these generous 
words ? And who can fail to see that Tolstoy's 
conception is fundamentally fruitful and vital, in 
spite of its Utopianism and a touch of puerility ? 
It is true that our art as a whole is only the 

1 As early as 1873 Tolstoy had written: "Think what 
you will, but in such a fashion that every word may be 
understood by every one. One cannot write anything bad 
in a perfectly clear and simple language. What is immoral 
will appear so false if clearly expressed that it will assuredly 
be deleted. If a writer seriously wishes to speak to the 
people, he has only to force himself to be comprehensible. 
When not a word arrests the reader's attention the work is 
good. If he cannot relate what he has read the work is 
worthless.'' 

a This ideal of brotherhood and union among men is by 
no means, to Tolstoy's mind, the limit of human activity; 
his insatiable mind conceives an unknown ideal, above and 
beyond that of love : 

"Science will perhaps one day offer as the basis of art 
a much higher ideal, and art will realise it." 



SCIENCE AND ART 161 

expression of a caste, which is itself subdivided 
not only by the fact of nationality, but in each 
country also into narrow and hostile clans. There 
is not a single artist in Europe who realises in 
his own personality the union of parties and of 
races. The most universal mind of our time 
was that of Tolstoy himself. In him men of all 
nations and all classes have attained fraternity ; 
and those who have tasted the virile joy of this 
capacious love can no longer be satisfied by the 
shreds and fragments of the vast human soul 
which are offered by the art of the European 
cliques. 



11 



XIV 

THEORIES 
OF ART: 
MUSIC 



\ 



CHAPTER XIV 

THEORIES OF ART I MUSIC 

The finest theory finds its value only in the 
works by which it is exemplified. With Tolstoy 
theory and creation are always hand in hand, like 
faith and action. While he was elaborating his 
critique of art he was producing types of the 
new art of which he spoke : of two forms of art, 
one higher and one less exalted, but both 
"religious" in the most human sense. In one 
he sought the union of men through love; in the 
other he waged war upon the world, the enemy 
of love. It was during this period that he wrote 
those masterpieces : The Death oj Ivan Ilyitch 
(1884-86), the Popular Tales and Stories (1881- 
1886), The Power of Darkness (1886), the Kreutzer 
Sonata (1889), and Master and Servant (1895). 

1 To these years was attributed, in respect of the date 
of publication, and perhaps of completion, a work which 
was really written during the happy period of betrothal 
and the first years of marriage : the beautiful story of a 
horse, Kholstomier (1861-86). Tolstoy speaks of it in 1883 
in a letter to Fet (Further Correspondence). The art of the 
commencement, with its fine landscapes, its penetrating 
psychological sympathy, its humour, and its youth, has 

166 



166 TOLSTOY 

At the height and end of this artistic period, 
like a cathedral with two spires, the one symbol- 
ising eternal love and the other the hatred of the 
world, stands Resurrection (1899). 

All these works are distinguished from their 
predecessors by new artistic qualities. Tolstoy's 
ideas had suffered a change, not alone in respect 
of the object of art, but also in respect of its 
form. In reading What is Art? or Shakespeare 
we are struck by the principles of art which 
Tolstoy has enounced in these two books ; for these 
principles are for the most part in contradiction 
to the greatest of his previous works. "Clearness, 
simplicity, conciseness," we read in What is Artf 
Material effects are despised ; minute realism is 
condemned ; and in Shakespeare the classic ideal 
of perfection and proportion is upheld. "Without 
the feeling of balance no artists could exist." 
And although in his new work the unregenerate 
man, with his genius for analysis and his native 
savagery, is not entirely effaced, some aspects 
of the latter quality being even emphasised, his 
art is profoundly modified in some respects : the 
design is clearer, more vigorously accented ; the 
minds of his characters are epitomised, fore- 
shortened ; the interior drama is intensified, 
gathered upon itself like a beast of prey about 

much in common with the art of Tolstoy's maturity (Family 
Happiness, War and Peace). The macabre quality of the 
end, and the last pages comparing the body of the old 
horse with that of his master, are full of a realistic brutality 
characteristic of the years after 1880. 



THEORIES OF ART: MUSIC 167 

to spring; the emotion has a quality of univer- 
sality ; and is freed of all transitory details of local 
realism ; and finally the diction is rich in 
illustrations, racy, and smacking of the soil. 

His love of the people had long led him to appre- 
ciate the beauty of the popular idiom. As a child 
he had been soothed by the tales of mendicant 
story-tellers. As a grown man and a famous writer, 
he experienced an artistic delight in chatting with 
his peasants. 

"These men," he said in later years to M. Paul 
Boyer, 1 " are masters. Of old, when I used to talk 
with them, or with the wanderers who, wallet on 
shoulder, pass through our countryside, I used care- 
fully to note such of their expressions as I heard 
for the first time ; expressions often forgotten by our 
modern literary dialect, but always good old 
Russian currency, ringing sound. . . . Yes, the 
genius of the language lives in these men." 

He must have been the more sensitive to such 
elements of the language in that his mind was not 
encumbered with literature. 2 Through living far 
from any city, in the midst of peasants, he came 
to think a little in the manner of the people. He 
had the slow dialectic, the common sense which 
reasons slowly and painfully, step by step, with 

1 Le Temps, August 29, 1901. 

' "As for style," his friend Droujinin told him in 1856, 
" You are extremely illiterate ; sometimes like an innovator 
and a great poet ; sometimes like an officer writing to a com- 
rade. All that you write with real pleasure is admirable. 
The moment you become indifferent your style becomes 
involved and is horrible." (Vie et (Euvre.) 



168 TOLSTOY 

sudden disconcerting leaps, the mania for repeating 
any idea when he was once convinced, of repeating 
it unwearingly and indefinitely, and in the same 
words. 1 

But these were faults rather than qualities. It 
was many years before he became aware of the 
latent genius of the popular tongue ; the raciness 
of its images, its poetic crudity, its wealth of 
legendary wisdom. Even at the time of writing 
War and Peace he was already subject to its in- 
fluence. In March, 1872, he wrote to Strakov : 

" I have altered the method of my diction and my 
writing. The language of the people has sounds to 
express all that the poet can say, and it is very dear 
to me. It is the best poetic regulator. If you try 
to say anything superfluous, too emphatic, or false, 
the language will not suffer it. Whereas our literary 
tongue has no skeleton, you may pull it about in 
every direction, and the result is always something 
resembling literature." 

To the people he owed not only models of style ; 
he owed them many of his inpirations. In 1877 a 
teller of bylines came to Yasnaya Polyana, and 
Tolstoy took notes of several of his stories. Of the 
number was the legend By what do Men live f and 
The Three Old Men, which became, as we know, two 
of the finest of the Popular Tales and Legends which 
Tolstoy published a few years later. 2 

1 Vie et (F.uvre. During the summer of 1879 Tolstoy lived 
on terms of great intimacy with the peasants. 

In the notes of his readings, between i860 and 1870, 
Tolstoy wrote : " The bylines very greatly impressed." 



THEORIES OF ART: MUSIC 169 

This is a work unique in modern art. It is 
higher than art : for who, in reading it, thinks of 
literature ? The spirit of the Gospel and the pure 
love of the brotherhood of man are combined with 
the smiling geniality of the wisdom of the people. 
It is full of simplicity, limpidity, and ineffable good- 
ness of heart ; and that supernatural radiance which 
from time to time so naturally and inevitably 
bathes the whole picture ; surrounding the old 
Elias J like a halo, or hovering in the cabin of the 
cobbler Michael ; he who, through his skylight on 
the ground-level, sees the feet of people passing, 
and whom the Lord visits in the guise of the poor 
whom the good cobbler has succoured. 2 Some- 
times in these tales the parables of the Gospel are 
mingled with a vague perfume of Oriental legends, 
of those Thousand and One Nights which Tolstoy 
had loved since childhood. 3 Sometimes, again, the 
fantastic light takes on a sinister aspect, lending 
the tale a terrifying majesty. Such is Pakhom the 
Peasant,* the tale of the man who kills himself in 
acquiring a great surface of and all the land which 
he can encircle by walking for a whole day and 
who dies on completing his journey. 

" On the hill the starschina, sitting on the ground, 
watched him as he ran ; and he cackled, holding his 
stomach with both hands. And Pakhom fell. 

1 The Two Old Men (1885). 

2 Where Love is, there God is also (1885). 

3 By what do Men live? (188 1) ; The Three Old Men (1884) ; 
The Godchild (1886). 

* This tale bears the sub-title, Does a Man need much Soil f 
(1886). 



170 TOLSTOY 

" ' Ah ! Well done, my merry fellow ! You have 
won a mighty lot of land ! ' 

u The starschina rose, and threw a mattock to 
Pakhom's servant. 

" There he is : bury him.' 

"The servant was alone. He dug a ditch for 
Pakhom, just as long as from his feet to his head : 
two yards, and he buried him." 

Nearly all these tales conceal, beneath their poetic 
envelope, the same evangelical moral of renunciation 
and pardon. 

" Do not avenge thyself upon whosoever shall 
offend thee. 1 

" Do not resist whosoever shall do thee evil. 2 

" Vengeance is Mine, saith the Lord."3 

And everywhere, and as the conclusion of all, is 
love. 

Tolstoy, who wished to found an art for all men, 
achieved universality at the first stroke. Through- 
out the world his work has met with a success 
which can never fail, for it is purged of all the 
perishable elements of art, and nothing is left but 
the eternal. 

The Powet oj Darkness does not rise to this 
august simplicity of heart : it does not pretend to do 
so. It is the reverse side of the picture. On the 
one hand is the dream of divine love ; on the other, 
the ghastly reality. We may judge, in reading this 

1 The Fire that flames does not go out (1885). 

a The Wax Taper (1885) ; The Story o f Ivan the Idiot. 

3 The Godson (1886). 



THEORIES OF ART: MUSIC 171 

play, whether Tolstoy's faith and his love of the 
people ever caused him to idealise the people or 
betray the truth. 

Tolstoy, so awkward in most of his dramatic 
essays, 1 has here attained to mastery. The 
characters and the action, are handled with ease ; 
the coxcomb Nikita, the sensual, headstrong passion 
of Anissia, the cynical good-humour of the old 
woman, Matrena, who gloats maternally over the 
adultery of her son, and the sanctity of the old 
stammering Hakim God inhabiting a ridiculous 
body. Then comes the fall of Nikita, weak and 
without real evil, but fettered by his sin ; falling to 
the depths of crime in spite of his efforts to check 
himself on the dreadful declivity ; but his mother 
and his wife drag him downward. . . . 

"The peasants aren't worth much. . . . But the 
babas ! The women ! They are wild animals . . . 
they are afraid of nothing ! . . . Sisters, there are 

x The love of the theatre came to him somewhat late in life. 
It was a discovery of his, and he made this discovery during 
the winter of 1869-70. According to his custom, he was at 
once afire with enthusiasm. 

" All this winter I have busied myself exclusively with the 
drama ; and, as always happens to men who have never, up to 
the age of forty, thought about such or such a subject, when 
they suddenly turn their attention to this neglected subject, it 
seems to them that they perceive a number of new and 
wonderful things. ... I have read Shakespeare, Goethe, 
Pushkin, Gogol, and Moliere. ... I want to read Sophocles 
and Euripides. ... I have kept my bed a long time, being 
unwell and when I am unwell a host of comic or dramatic 
characters begin to struggle for life within me . . . and they 
do it with much success." Letters to Fet, February 17-21, 
1870 (Further Letters). 



172 TOLSTOY 

millions of you, all Russians, and you are all as 
blind as moles. You know nothing, you know 
nothing ! . . . The moujik at least may manage 
to learn something in the drink-shop, or who 
knows where ? in prison, or in the barracks ; but 
the baba what can she know ? She has seen 
nothing, heard nothing. As she has grown up, 
so she will die. . . . They are like little blind 
puppies who go running here and there and ram- 
ming their heads against all sorts of filth. . . . 
They only know their silly songs : ' Ho o o 1 
Ho o o ! ' What does it mean ? Ho o o ? 
They don't know ! " 

Then comes the terrible scene of the murder of 
the new-born child. Nikita does not want to kill it. 
Anissia, who has murdered her husband for him, 
and whose nerves have ever since been tortured by 
her crime, becomes ferocious, maddened, and 
threatens to give him up. She cries : 

"At least I shan't be alone any longer ! He'll be 
a murderer too ! Let him know what it's like ! " 

Nikita crushes the child between two boards. In 
the midst of his crime he flies, terrified ; he 
threatens to kill Anissia and his mother ; he sobs, 
he prays : 

" Little mother, I can't go on ! " He thinks he 
hears the mangled baby crying. 

" Where shall I go to be safe ? " 

It is Shakespearean. Less violent, but still more 
poignant, is the dialogue of the little girl and the 
old servant-woman, who, alone in the house, at 
1 A variant of Act iy. 



THEORIES OF ART: MUSIC 173 

night, hear and guess at the crime which is being 
enacted off the stage. 

The end is voluntary expiation. Nikita, accom- 
panied by his father, the old Hakim, enters bare- 
footed, in the midst of a wedding. He kneels, asks 
pardon of all, and accuses himself of every crime. 
Old Hakim encourages him, looks upon him with 
a smile of ecstatic suffering. 

" God ! Oh, look at him, God ! " 

The drama gains quite a special artistic flavour 
by the use of the peasant dialect. 

" I ransacked my notebooks in order to write 
The Power of Darkness" Tolstoy told M. Paul Boyer. 

The unexpected images, flowing from the lyrical 
yet humorous soul of the Russian people, have a 
swing and a vigour about them beside which 
images of the more literary quality seem tame and 
colourless. Tolstoy revelled in them ; we feel, in 
reading the play, that the artist while writing it 
amused himself by noting these expressions, these 
turns of thought ; the comic side of them by no 
means escapes him, 1 even while the apostle is 
mourning amidst the dark places of the human 
soul. 

While he was studying the people, and sending 
into their darkness a ray of light from his station 
above them, he was also devoting two tragic 
romances to the still darker night of the middle 

* The creation of this heart-breaking drama must have been 
a strain. He writes to Teneromo : " I am well and happy. I 
have been working all this time at my play. It is finished." 
(January, 1887. Further Letters.) 



174 TOLSTOY 

classes and the wealthy. At this period the 
dramatic form was predominant over his ideas of 
art. The Death of Ivan Ilyitch and The Kreutzer 
Sonata are both true dramas of the inner soul, of 
the soul turned upon itself and concentrated upon 
itself, and in The Kreutzer Sonata it is the hero of 
the drama himself who unfolds it by narration. 

The Death of Ivan Ilyitch (1884-86) has impressed 
the French public as few Russian works have done. 
At the beginning of this study I mentioned that I 
had witnessed the sensation caused by this book 
among the middle-class readers in the French 
provinces, a class apparently indifferent to literature 
and art. I think the explanation lies in the fact that 
the book represents, with a painful realism, a type 
of the average, mediocre man ; a conscientious 
functionary, without religion, without ideals, almost 
without thought ; the man who is absorbed in his 
duties, in his mechanical life, until the hour of his 
death, when he sees with terror that he has not 
lived. Ivan Ilyitch is the representative type of the 
European bourgeoisie of 1880 which reads Zola, 
goes to hear Bernhardt, and, without holding any 
faith, is not even irreligious ; for it does not take the 
trouble either to believe or to disbelieve ; it simply 
never thinks of such matters. 

In the violence of its attacks, alternately bitter 
and almost comic, upon the world in general, and 
marriage in particular, the Death of Ivan Ilyitch was 
the first of a new series of works ; it was the fore- 
runner of the still more morose and unworldly 
Kreutzer Sonata and Resurrection. There is a 



THEORIES OF ART: MUSIC 175 

lamentable yet laughable emptiness in this life (as 
there is in thousands and thousands of lives), with 
its grotesque ambitions, its wretched gratification of 
vanity, "always better than spending the evening 
opposite one's wife " ; with its weariness and hatred 
of the official career; its privileges, and the embitter- 
ment which they cause ; and its one real pleasure : 
whist. This ridiculous life is lost for a cause yet 
more ridiculous a fall from a ladder, one day 
when Ivan wished to hang a curtain over the 
drawing-room window. The lie of life. The lie of 
sickness. The lie of the well-to-do doctor, who 
thinks only of himself. The lie of the family, whom 
illness disgusts. The lie of the wife, who professes 
devotion, and calculates how she will live when her 
husband is dead. The universal lie, against which 
is set only the truth of a compassionate servant, who 
does not try to conceal his condition from the 
dying man, and helps him out of brotherly kind- 
ness. Ivan Ilyitch, "full of an infinite pity for 
himself," weeps over his loneliness and the egoism 
of men ; he suffers horribly, until the day on which 
he perceives that his past life has been a lie, and 
that he can repair that lie. Immediately all be- 
comes clear an hour before his death. He no 
longer thinks of himself ; he thinks of his family ; 
he pities them; he must die and rid them of 
himself. 

" Where are you, Pain ? Here. . . . Well, you 
have only to persist. And Death, where is Death ? 
He did not find it. In place of Death he saw only 
a ray of light. * It is over/ said some one. He 



176 TOLSTOY 

heard these words and repeated them to himself. 
'Death no longer exists/ he told himself." 

In The Kreutzer Sonata there is not even this "ray 
of light." It is a ferocious piece of work ; Tolstoy 
lashes out at society like a wounded beast avenging 
itself for what it has suffered. We must not forget 
that the story is the confession of a human brute, 
who has taken life, and who is poisoned by the 
virus of jealousy. Tolstoy hides himself behind his 
leading character. We certainly find his own ideas, 
though heightened in tone, in these furious invec- 
tives against hypocrisy in general ; the hypocrisy of 
the education of women, of love, of marriage 
marriage, that " domestic prostitution " ; the hypo- 
crisy of the world, of science, of physicians those 
" sowers of crime." But the hero of the book 
impels the writer into an extraordinary brutality of 
expression, a violent rush of carnal images all the 
excesses of a luxurious body and, by reaction into 
all the fury of asceticism, the fear and hatred of the 
passions ; maledictions hurled in the face of life by a 
monk of the Middle Ages, consumed with sensuality. 
Having written the book Tolstoy himself was 
alarmed : 

" I never foresaw at all," he said in the Epilogue 
to the Kreutzer Sonata" * that in writing this book a 
rigorous logic would bring me where I have arrived. 
My own conclusions terrified me at first, and I was 
tempted to reject them ; but it was impossible for 

1 A French translation of this Epilogue (Post/ace), by M. 
Halperine-Kaminsky was published in the volume Plaisirs 
vicieux, under the title Des relations entrc les sexes. 



THEORIES OF ART: MUSIC 177 

me to refuse to hear the voice of my reason and my 
conscience." 

He found himself repeating, in calmer tones, the 
savage outcry of the murderer Posdnicheff against 
love and marriage. 

"He who regards woman above all his wife 
with sensuality, already commits adultery with her." 

"When the passions have disappeared, then 
humanity will no longer have a reason for being ; 
it will have executed the Law ; the union of man- 
kind will be accomplished." 

He will prove, on the authority of the Gospel 
according to Matthew, that "the Christian ideal is 
not marriage ; that Christian marriage cannot exist ; 
that marriage, from the Christian point of view, is 
an element not of progress but of downfall ; that 
love, with all that precedes and follows it, is an 
obstacle to the true human ideal." x 

But he had never formulated these ideas clearly, 
even to himself, until they fell from the lips of 
Posdnicheff. As often happens with great creative 
artists, the work carried the writer with it ; the 
artist outstripped the thinker ; a process by which 

" Let us take notice that Tolstoy was never guilty of the 
simplicity of believing that the ideal of celibacy and absolute 
chastity was capable of realisation by humanity as we know it. 
But according to him an ideal is incapable of realisation by its 
very definition : it is an appeal to the heroic energies of the 
soul. 

"The conception of the Christian ideal, which is the 
union of all living creatures in brotherly love, is irreconcilable 
with the conduct of life, which demands a continual effort 
towards an ideal which is inaccessible, but does not expect 
that it will ever be attained." 

12 



178 TOLSTOY 

art lost nothing. In the power of its effects, in 
passionate concentration, in the brutal vividness 
of its impressions, and in fullness and maturity 
of form, nothing Tolstoy has written equals the 
Kreutzer Sonata. 

I have not explained the title. To be exact, it 
is erroneous ; it gives a false idea of the book, in 
which music plays only an accessory part. Suppress 
the sonata, and all would be the same. Tolstoy 
made the mistake of confusing two matters, both 
of which he took deeply to heart : the depraving 
power of music, and the depraving power of love. 
The demon of music should have been dealt with 
in a separate volume ; the space which Tolstoy has 
accorded it in the work in question is insufficient 
to prove the danger which he wishes to denounce. 
I must emphasise this matter somewhat ; for I do 
not think the attitude of Tolstoy in respect of 
music has ever been fully understood. 

He was far from disliking music. Only the things 
one loves are feared as Tolstoy feared the power 
of music. Remember what a place the memories 
of music hold in Childhood, and above all in 
Family Happiness, in which the whole cycle of love, 
from its springtide to its autumn, is unrolled to 
the phrases of the Sonata quasi una fantasia of 
Beethoven. Remember, too, the wonderful sym- 
phonies which Nekhludov * hears in fancy, and the 
little Petia, the night before his death. 3 Although 

1 At the end of A Russian Proprietor. 

War and Peace. I do not mention Albert (1857), the story 
of a musician of genius ; the book is weak in the extreme. 



THEORIES OF ART: MUSIC 179 

Tolstoy had studied music very indifferently, it 
used to move him to tears, and at certain periods 
of his life he passionately abandoned himself to 
its influence. In 1858 he founded a Musical 
Society, which in later years became the Moscow 
Conservatoire. 

u He was extremely fond of music," writes his 
brother-in-law, S. A. Bers. " He used to play the 
piano, and was fond of the classic masters. He 
would often sit down to the piano before beginning 
his work. 1 Probably he found inspiration in so 
doing. He always used to accompany my youngest 
sister, whose voice he loved. I have noticed that 
the sensations which the music evoked in him 
were accompanied by a slight pallor and an 
imperceptible grimace, which seemed expressive 
of fear." 2 

It was really fear that he felt ; fear inspired by 
the stress of those unknown forces which shook 
him to the roots of his being. In the world of 
music he felt his moral will, his reason, and all 
the reality of life dissolve. Let us turn to the 
scene, in the first volume of Wat and Peace, in 
which Nikolas Rostoff, who has just lost heavily 
at cards, returns in a state of despair. He hears 
his sister Natasha singing. He forgets everything. 

" He waited with a feverish impatience for the 
note which was about to follow, and for a moment 
the only thing in all the world was the melody 
in three-quarter-time : Oh ! mio crudele affetto ! 

' The period spoken of is 1876-77. 
S. A. Bers, Memories of Tolstoy. 



180 TOLSTOY 

"'What an absurd existence ours is!' he thought. 
1 Unhappiness, money, hatred, honour they are all 
nothing. . . . Here is the truth, the reality ! . . . 
Natasha, my little dove I . . . Let us see if she is 
going to reach that B ? . . . She has reached it, 
thank God!' 

"And to emphasise the B he sung the third 
octave below it in accompaniment. 

" ' How splendid ! I have sung it too,' he cried, 
and the vibration of that octave awoke in his 
soul all that was best and purest. Beside this 
superhuman sensation, what were his losses at 
play and his word of honour ? . . . Follies 1 One 
could kill, steal, and yet be happy 1 " 

Nikolas neither kills nor steals, and for him 
music is only a passing influence ; but Natasha is 
on the point of losing her self-control. After an 
evening at the Opera, " in that strange world which 
is intoxicated and perverted by art, and a thousand 
leagues from the real world ; a world in which 
good and evil, the extravagant and the reasonable, 
are mingled and confounded," she listened to a 
declaration from Anatol Kouraguin, who was madly 
in love with her, and she consented to elope 
with him. 

The older Tolstoy grew, the more he feared 
music. 1 A man whose influence over him was 

1 But he never ceased to love it. One of the friends of his 
later years was a musician, Goldenreiser, who spent the 
summer of 1910 near Yasnaya. Almost every day he came 
to play to Tolstoy during the latter's last illness. (Journal 
dcs Debats, November 18, 1910.) 



THEORIES OF ART: MUSIC 181 

considerable Auerbach, whom in i860 he had 
met in Dresden had doubtless a hand in fortifying 
his prejudices. " He spoke of music as of a 
Pfiichtloser Genuss (a profligate amusement). 
According to him, it was an incentive to 
depravity." " 

Among so many musicians, some of whose 
music is at least amoral, why, asks M. Camille 
Bellaigue, 2 should Tolstoy have chosen Beethoven, 
the purest, the chastest of all ? Because he was 
the most powerful. Tolstoy had early loved his 
music, and he always loved it. His remotest 
memories of Childhood were connected with the 
Sonata Pathetique; and when Nekhludov in Resurrec- 
tion heard the andante of the Symphony in C Minor, 
he could hardly restrain his tears : " he was rilled 
with tenderness for himself and for those he 
loved." Yet we have seen with what animosity 
Tolstoy referred in his What is Art? 3 to the 
" unhealthy works of the deaf Beethoven " ; and 
even in 1876 the fury with which "he delighted 
in demolishing Beethoven and in casting doubts 
upon his genius" had revolted Tchaikowsky and 
had diminished his admiration for Tolstoy. The 
Kreutzer Sonata enables us to plumb the depths of 

1 Letter of April 21, 1861. 

' Tolstoi et la musique (Le Gaulois, January 4, 1911). 

' Not only to the later works of Beethoven. Even in the 
case of those earlier works which he consented to regard as 
" artistic," Tolstoy complained of " their artificial form." In 
a letter to Tchaikowsky he contrasts with Mozart and Haydn 
"the artificial manner of Beethoven, Schubert, and Berlioz, 
which produces calculated effects." 



182 TOLSTOY 

this passionate injustice. What does Tolstoy com- 
plain of in Beethoven ? Of his power. He 
reminds us of Goethe ; listening to the Sym- 
phony in C Minor, he is overwhelmed by it, and 
angrily turns upon the imperious master who 
subjects him against his will. 1 

"This music," says Tolstoy, "transports me 
immediately into the state of mind which was 
the composer's when he wrote it. . . . Music 
ought to be a State matter, as in China. We 
ought not to let Tom, Dick, and Harry wield so 
frightful a hypnotic power. ... As for these things 
(the first Presto of the Sonata) one ought only to 
be allowed to play them under particular and 
important circumstances. . . ." 

Yet we see, after this revolt, how he surrenders 
to the power of Beethoven, and how this power 
is by his own admission a pure and ennobling 
force. On hearing the piece in question, Posdnicheff 
falls into an indefinable state of mind, which he 
cannot analyse, but of which the consciousness 
fills him with delight. " There is no longer room 
for jealousy." The wife is not less transfigured. 
She has, while she plays, "a majestic severity of 
expression " ; and " a faint smile, compassionate 
and happy, after she has finished." What is there 
perverse in all this ? This : that the spirit is 

1 Instance the scene described by M. Paul Boyer : 
" Tolstoy sat down to play Chopin. At the end of the 
fourth Ballade, his eyes filled with tears. ' Ah, the animal ! ' 
he cried. And suddenly he rose and went out." (Le Temps, 
November 2, 1902.) 



THEORIES OF ART: MUSIC 183 

enslaved : that the unknown power of sound can 
do with him what it wills ; destroy him, if it 
please. 

This is true, but Tolstoy forgets one thing : 
the mediocrity and the lack of vitality in the 
majority of those who make or listen to music. 
Music cannot be dangerous to those who feel 
nothing. The spectacle of the Opera-house during 
a performance of Salome is quite enough to assure 
us of the immunity of the public to the more 
perverse emotions evoked by the art of sounds. 
To be in danger one must be, like Tolstoy, 
abounding in life. The truth is that in spite of 
his injustice where Beethoven was concerned, 
Tolstoy felt his music more deeply than do the 
majority of those who now exalt him. He, at least, 
knew the frenzied passions, the savage violence, 
which mutter through the art of the " deaf old 
man," but of which the orchestras and the virtuosi 
of to-day are innocent. Beethoven would perhaps 
have preferred the hatred of Tolstoy to the enthu- 
siasm of his admirers. 



XV 

" RESURRECTION' 



CHAPTER XV 

" RESURRECTION " 

Ten years separated Resurrection from the Kreutzer 
Sonata ; ten years which were more and more 
absorbed in moral propaganda. Ten years also 
separated the former book from the end for which 
this life hungered, famished as it was for the eternal. 
Resurrection is in a sense the artistic testament of 
the author. It dominates the end of his life as Wat 
and Peace crowned its maturity. It is the last peak, 
perhaps the highest if not the most stupendous 

1 Master and Servant (1895) is more or less of a transi- 
tion between the gloomy novels which preceded it and 
Resurrection ; which is full of the light of the Divine charity. 
But it is akin to The Death of Ivan Ilyitch and the Popular Tales 
rather than to Resurrection, which only presents, towards the 
end of the book, the sublime transformation of a selfish and 
morally cowardly man under the stress of an impulse of 
sacrifice. The greater part of the book consists of the 
extremely realistic picture of a master without kindness and a 
servant full of resignation, who are surprised, by night, on the 
steppes, by a blizzard, in which they lose their way. The 
master, who at first tries to escape, deserting his companion, 
returns, and finding the latter half-frozen, throws himself 
upon him, covering him with his body, gives him of his 
warmth, and sacrifices himself by instinct ; he does not know 
18T 



188 TOLSTOY 

whose invisible summit is lost in the mists. Tolstoy 
is seventy years old. He contemplates the world, 
his life, his past mistakes, his faith, his righteous 
anger. 

He sees them from a height. We find the 
same ideals as in his previous books ; the same 
warring upon hypocrisy ; but the spirit of the artist, 
as in War and Peace, soars above his subject. To 
the sombre irony, the mental tumult of the Kreutzet 
Sonata and The Death of Ivan Ilyitch he adds a 
religious serenity, a detachment from the world, 
which is faithfully reflected in himself. One is 
reminded, at times, of a Christian Goethe. 

All the literary characteristics which we have 
noted in the works of his later period are to be 
found here, and of these especially the concentra- 
tion of the narrative, which is even more striking 
in a long novel than in a short story. There is a 
wonderful unity about the book ; in which respect 
it differs widely from War and Peace and Anna 
Karenin. There are hardly any digressions of an 
episodic nature. A single train of action, tenaciously 

why, but the tears fill his eyes ; it seems to him that he has 
become the man he is seeking to save Nikita and that his 
life is no longer in himself, but in Nikita. "Nikita is alive ; 
then I am still alive, myself." He has almost forgotten who 
he, Vassili, was. He thinks : " Vassili did not know what 
had to be done. But I, I know I " He hears the voice of 
Him whom he was awaiting (here his dream recalls one of 
the Popular Tales), of Him who, a little while ago, had 
commanded him to lie upon Nikita. He cries, quite 
happy : " Lord, I am coming ! " and he feels that he is 
free ; that nothing is keeping him back any longer. He is 
dead. 



" RESURRECTION " 189 

followed, is worked out in every detail. There is 
the same vigorous portraiture, the same ease and 
fullness of handling, as in the Krentzer Sonata. 
The observation is more than ever lucid, robust, 
pitilessly realistic, revealing the animal in the man 
"the terrible persistence of the beast in man, more 
terrible when this animality is not openly obvious ; 
when it is concealed under a so-called poetical 
exterior." Witness the drawing-room conversations, 
which have for their object the mere satisfaction 
of a physical need : "the need of stimulating the 
digestion by moving the muscles of the tongue and 
gullet " ; the crude vision of humanity which spares 
no one ; neither the pretty Korchagina, " with her 
two false teeth, the salient bones of her elbows, and 
the largeness of her finger-nails," and her decolletage, 
which inspires in Nekhludov a feeling of "shame 
and disgust, disgust and shame " ; nor the herione, 
Maslova, nothing of whose degradation is hidden ; 
her look of premature age, her vicious, ignoble 
expression, her provocative smile, the odour of 
brandy that hangs about her, her red and swollen 
face. There is a brutality of naturalistic detail : as 
instance, the woman who converses while crouched 
over the commode. Youth and the poetic imagina- 
tion have vanished ; except in the passages which 
deal with the memories of first love, whose music 
vibrates in the reader's mind with hypnotic 
intensity ; the night of the Holy Saturday, and the 
night of Passover ; the thaw, the white mist so 
thick "that at five paces from the house one saw 
nothing but a shadowy mass, whence glimmered the 



190 TOLSTOY 

red light of a lamp " ; the crowing of the cocks in 
the night ; the sounds from the frozen river, where 
the ice cracks, snores, bubbles, and tinkles like a 
breaking glass ; and the young man who, from the 
night outside, looks through the window at the 
young girl who does not see him : seated near 
the table in the flickering light of the little lamp 
Katusha, pensive, dreaming, and smiling at her 
dreams. 

The lyrical powers of the writer are given but 
little play. His art has become more impersonal ; 
more alien to his own life. The world of criminals 
and revolutionaries, which he here describes, was 
unfamiliar to him ; l he enters it only by an 
effort of voluntary sympathy ; he even admits 
that before studying them at close quarters the 
revolutionaries inspired him with an unconquerable 
aversion. All the more admirable is his impeccable 
observation a faultless mirror. What a wealth of 
types, of precise details ! How everything is seen ; 
baseness and virtue, without hardness, without 
weakness, but with a serene understanding and a 
brotherly pity. . . . The terrible picture of the 
women in the prison ! They are pitiless to one 
another ; but the artist is the merciful God ; he 
sees, in the heart of each, the distress that hides 
beneath humiliation, and the tearful eyes beneath 

1 While on the other hand he had mixed in all the various 
circles depicted in War and Peace, Anna Kareniti, The 
Cossacks, and Sebastopol ; the salons of the nobles, the 
army, the life of the country estate. He had only to 
remember. 



" RESURRECTION " 191 

the mask of effrontery. The pure, faint light which 
little by little waxes within the vicious mind of 
Maslova, and at last illumines her with a sacrificial 
flame, has the touching beauty of one of those rays 
of sunshine which transfigure some humble scene 
painted by the brush of Rembrandt. There is no 
severity here, even for the warders and executioners. 
" Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they 
do 1" . . . The worst of it is that often they do 
know what they do ; they feel all the pangs of 
remorse, yet they cannot do otherwise. There 
broods over the book the sense of the crushing and 
inevitable fatality which weighs upon those who 
suffer and those who cause that suffering : the 
director of the prison, full of natural kindness, as 
sick of his jailer's life as of the pianoforte exercises 
of the pale, sickly daughter with the dark circles 
beneath her eyes, who indefatigably murders a 
rhapsody of Liszt ; the Governor-General of the 
Siberian town, intelligent and kindly, who, in the 
hope of escaping the inevitable conflict between 
the good he wishes to do and the evil he is forced 
to do, has been steadily drinking since the age of 
thirty-five ; who is always sufficiently master of 
himself to keep up appearances, even when he is 
drunk. And among these people we find the 
ordinary affection for wife and children, although 
their calling renders them pitiless in respect of the 
rest of humanity. 

The only character in this book who has no 
objective reality is Nekhludov himself; and this is 
so because Tolstoy has invested him with his own 



192 TOLSTOY 

ideas. This is a defect of several of the most 
notable types in War and Peace and in Anna 
Karenin ; for example, Prince Andrei, Pierre 
Besoukhov, Levine, and others. The fault was less 
grave, however, in these earlier books ; for the 
characters, by force of their circumstances and their 
age, were nearer to the author's actual state of mind. 
But in Resurrection the author places in the body of 
an epicurean of thirty-five the disembodied soul of 
an old man of seventy. I will not say that the 
moral crisis through which Nekhludov is supposed 
to pass is absolutely untrue and impossible ; nor 
even that it could not be brought about so 
suddenly. 1 But there is nothing in the tempera- 
ment, the character, the previous life of the man 
as Tolstoy depicts him, to announce or explain 
this crisis ; and once it has commenced nothing 
interrupts it. Tolstoy has, it is true, with profound 
observation, represented the impure alloy which at 
the outset is mingled with the thoughts of sacrifice ; 
the tears of self-pity and admiration ; and, later, the 
horror and repugnance which seize upon Nekhludov 
when he is brought face to face with reality. But 
his resolution never flinches. This crisis has 
nothing in common with his previous crises, violent 

1 " Men carry in them the germ of all the human qualities, 
and they manifest now one, now another, so that they often 
appear to be not themselves ; that is, themselves as they 
habitually appear. Among some these changes are more 
rare ; among others more rapid. To the second class of men 
belongs Nekhludov. Under the influence of various physical 
or moral causes sudden and complete changes are incessantly 
being produced within him." (Resurrection.) 



" RESURRECTION " 193 

but only momentary. 1 Henceforth nothing can 
arrest this weak and undecided character. A 
wealthy prince, much respected, greatly enjoying 
the good things of the world, on the point of marry- 
ing a charming girl who loves him and is not dis- 
tasteful to him, he suddenly decides to abandon 
everything wealth, the world, and social position 
and to marry a prostitute in order to atone for a 
remote offence ; and his exaltation survives, with- 
out flinching, for months ; it holds out against 
every trial, even the news that the woman he 
wishes to make his wife is continuing her life of 
debauchery. 2 Here we have a saintliness of which 
the psychology of a Dostoyevsky would have 
shown us the source, in the obscure depths of 
the conscience or even in the organism of his 
hero. Nekhludov, however, is by no means one of 
Dostoyevsky's heroes. He is the type of the 
average man, commonplace, sane, who is Tolstoy's 
usual hero. To be exact, we are conscious of the 



1 " Many times in his life he had proceeded to clean up his 
conscience. This was the term he used to denote those moral 
crises in which he decided to sweep out the moral refuse 
which littered his soul. At the conclusion of these crises he 
never failed to set himself certain rules, which he swore 
always to keep. He kept a diary ; he began a new life. But 
each time it was not long before he fell once more to the 
same level, or lower still, than before the crisis." {Resur- 
rection.) 

a Upon learning that Maslova is engaged in an intrigue 
with a hospital attendant, Nekhludov is more than ever decided 
to " sacrifice his liberty in order to redeem the sin of this 
woman." 

13 



194 TOLSTOY 

juxtaposition of a very materialistic I character and 
a moral crisis which belongs to another man, and 
that man the aged Tolstoy. 

The same impression one of elemental duality 
is again produced at the end of the book, where a 
third part, full of strictly realistic observation, is set 
beside an evangelical conclusion which is not in 
any way essential ; it is an act of personal faith, 2 
which does not logically issue from the life under 
observation. This is not the first time that Tolstoy's 
religion has become involved with his realism ; but 
in previous works the two elements have been better 
mingled. Here they are not amalgamated ; they 
simply coexist ; and the contrast is the more striking 
in that Tolstoy's faith is always becoming less and 
less indifferent to proof, while his realism is daily 
becoming more finely whetted, more free from 
convention. Here is a sign, not of fatigue, but of 
age ; a certain stiffness, so to speak, in the joints. 
The religious conclusion is not the organic develop- 
ment of the work. It is a Deus ex machind. I 
personally am convinced that right in the depth of 

1 Tolstoy has never drawn a character with so sure, so 
broad a touch as in the beginning of Resurrection. Witness the 
admirable description of Nekhludov's toilet and his actions 
of the morning before the first session in the Palace of 
Justice. 

* The word " act" to be found here and there in the text in 
such phrases as "act of faith," " act of will," is used in a sense 
peculiar to Catholic and Orthodox Christians. A penitent is 
told to perform an "act of faith" as penance; which is 
usually the repetition of certain prayers of the nature of a 
creed. The "act," in short, is a repetition, a declamation, a 
meditation: anything but an action. [Trans.] 



RESURRECTION " 195 

Tolstoy's being in spite of all his affirmations the 
fusion between his two diverse natures was by no 
means complete : between the truth of the artist 
and the truth of the believer. 

Although Resurrection has not the harmonious 
fullness of the work of his youth, and although I, 
for my part, prefer Wat and Peace, it is none the less 
one of the most beautiful poems of human com- 
passion ; perhaps the most truthful ever written. 
More than in any other book I see through the 
pages of this those bright eyes of Tolstoy's, the pale- 
grey, piercing eyes, " the look that goes straight to 
the heart," * and in each heart sees its God. 

x Letter of Countess Tolstoy's, 1884. 



XVI 

RELIGION 

AND 

POLITICS 



CHAPTER XVI 

RELIGION AND POLITICS 

Tolstoy never renounced his art. A great artist 
cannot, even if he would, abandon the reason of his 
existence. He can, for religious reasons, cease to 
publish, but he cannot cease to write. Tolstoy 
never interrupted his work of artistic creation. 
M. Paul Boyer, who saw him, during the last few 
years, at Yasnaya Polyana, says that he would now 
give prominence to his evangelistic works, now to 
his works of imagination ; he would work at the 
one as a relaxation from the other. When he had 
finished some social pamphlet, some Appeal to the 
Rulers or to the Ruled, he would allow himself to 
resume one of the charming tales which he was, so 
to speak, in process of recounting to himself; such 
as his Hadji-Mourad, a military epic, which cele- 
brated an episode of the wars of the Caucasus and 
the resistance of the mountaineers under Schamyl. 1 
Art was still his relaxation, his pleasure ; but he 
would have thought it a piece of vanity to make a 
parade of it. With the exception of his Cycle of 
* Le Temps, November 2, 190a. 

199 



200 TOLSTOY 

Readings for Every Day of the Year (1904-5), 1 in 
which he collected the thoughts of various writers 
upon Life and the Truth a true anthology of the 
poetical wisdom of the world, from the Holy Books 
of the East to the works of contemporary writers 
nearly all his literary works of art, properly so 
called, which have been written later than 1900 
have remained in manuscript. 2 

On the other hand he was boldly and ardently 
casting his mystical and polemical writings upon 
the social battlefield. From 1900 to 1910 such 

1 Tolstoy regarded this as one of his most important works. 
" One of my books For Every Day to which I have the con- 
ceit to attach a great importance . . . ." (Letter to Jan Styka, 
July 27-August 9, 1909). 

* These works should shortly appear, under the supervision 
of Countess Alexandra, Tolstoy's daughter. The list of them 
has been published in various iournals. We may mention 
Hadji-Mourad, Father Sergius, the psychology of a monk ; She 
Had Every Virtue, the study of a woman ; the Diary of a Mad- 
man, the Diary of a Mother, the Story of a Doukhobor, the Story 
of a Hive, the Posthumous Journal of Theodore Kouzmitch, 
Aliocha Govchkoff, Tikhon and Melanie, After the Ball, The 
Moon shines in the Dark, A Young Tsar, What I saw in a 
Dream, Who is the Murderer t (containing social ideas), 
Modern Socialism, a comedy ; The Learned Woman, Childish 
Wisdom, sketches of children who converse upon moral 
subjects ; The Living Corpse, a drama in seventeen tableaux ; 
// is all her Fault, a peasant comedy in two acts, directed 
against alcohol (apparently Tolstoy's last literary work, as he 
wrote it in May-June, 1910), and a number of social studies. 
It is announced that they will form two octavo volumes of six 
hundred pages each. 

But the essential work as yet unpublished is Tolstoy's 
Journal, which covers forty years of his life, and will fill, so 
it is said, no less than thirty volumes. 



RELIGION AND POLITICS 201 

work absorbed the greater part of his time and 
energy. Russia was passing through an alarming 
crisis; for a moment the empire of the Tsars seemed 
to totter on its foundations and about to fall in ruin. 
The Russo-Japanese war, the disasters which fol- 
lowed it, the revolutionary troubles, the mutinies in 
the army and the fleet, the massacres, the agrarian 
disorders, seemed to mark "the end of a world," to 
quote the title of one of Tolstoy's writings. The 
height of the crisis was reached in 1904 and 1905. 
During these years Tolstoy published a remark- 
able series of works : War and Revolution, The 
Great Crime, The End of a World. During 
the last ten years of his life he occupied a 
situation unique not only in Russia but in the 
world. He was alone, a stranger to all the parties, 
to all countries, and rejected by his Church, which 
had excommunicated him. 1 The logic of his reason 
and the revolutionary character of his faith had " led 
him to this dilemma ; to live a stranger to other 
men, or a stranger to the truth." He recalls the 
Russian proverb : u An old man who lies is a rich 
man who steals," and he severs himself from mankind 
in order to speak the truth. He tells the whole 
truth, and to all. The old hunter of lies continues, 
unweariedly, to mark down all superstitions, reli- 
gious or social, and all fetishes. The only exceptions 
are the old maleficent powers the persecutrix, the 

1 The excommunication of Tolstoy by the Holy Synod was 
declared on February 22, 1901. The excuse was a chapter of 
Resurrection relating to Mass and the Eucharist. This chapter 
has unhappily been suppressed in the French edition. 



202 TOLSTOY 

Church, and the imperial autocracy. Perhaps his 
enmity towards them was in some degree appeased 
now that all were casting stones at them. They 
were familiar ; therefore they were already not so 
formidable ! After all, too, the Church and the 
Tsar were carrying on their peculiar trades ; they 
were at least not deceptive. Tolstoy, in his letter to 
the Tsar Nikolas II., 1 although he speaks the truth in 
a manner entirely unaccommodating to the man as 
sovereign, is full of gentleness for the sovereign as 
man ; addressing him as " dear brother," praying him 
to u pardon him if he has hurt him unintentionally," 
and signing himself, "Your brother who wishes 
you true happiness." 

What Tolstoy can least find it in him to pardon 
what he denounces with the utmost hatred are the 
new lies ; not the old ones, which are no longer 
able to deceive ; not despotism, but the illusion of 
liberty. It is difficult to say which he hates the 
more among the followers of the newer idols : 
whether the Socialists or the " Liberals." 

He had a long-standing antipathy for the Libe- 
rals. It had seized upon him suddenly when, as 
an officer fresh from Sebastopol, he found himself 
in the society of the literary men of St. Petersburg. 
It had been one of the causes of his misunderstand- 
ing with Tourgenev. The arrogant noble, the man 
of ancient race, could not support these " intellec- 
tuals," with their profession of making the nation 
happy, whether by its will or against it, by fo! 
their Utopian schemes upon it. Very much a 

1 On the nationalisation of the soil. (The Great Crime, 1905.) 



RELIGION AND POLITICS 203 

Russian, and of the old stamp, 1 he instinctively 
distrusted all liberal innovations, and the constitu- 
tional ideas which came from the West ; and his 
two journeys abroad only intensified his prejudices. 
On his return from his first journey he wrote : 

* To avoid the ambition of Liberalism." 

On his return from the second : 

" A privileged society has no right whatsoever to 
educate in its own way the masses of which it 
knows nothing." 

In Anna Karenin he freely expresses his contempt 
for Liberals in general. Levine refuses to associate 
himself with the work of the provincial institutions 
for educating the people, and the innovations which 
are the order of the day. The picture of the elec- 
tions to the provincial assembly exposes the fool's 
bargain by which the country changes its ancient 
Conservative administration for a Liberal regime 
nothing is really altered, except that there is one lie 
the more, while the masters are of inferior blood. 

" We are not worth very much perhaps," says the 
representative of the aristocracy, " but none the less 
we have lasted a thousand years." 

Tolstoy fulminates against the manner in which 
the Liberals abuse the words, " The People : The 
Will of the People." What do they know of the 
people ? Who are the People ? 

But it is more especially when the Liberal move- 
ment seemed on the point of succeeding and 
achieving the convocation of the first Duma that 

x "A 'Great-Russian,' touched with Finnish blood." (M. 
Leroy-Beaulieu.) 



204 TOLSTOY 

Tolstoy expressed most violently his disapprobation 
of its constitutional ideas. 

" During the last few years the deformation of 
Christianity has given rise to a new species of fraud, 
which has rooted our peoples yet more firmly in 
their servility. With the help of a complicated 
system of parliamentary elections it was suggested 
to them that by electing their representatives directly 
they were participating in the government, and that 
in obeying them they were obeying their own will : 
in short, that they were free. This is a piece of 
imposture. The people cannot express its will, even 
with the aid of universal suffrage i, because no 
such collective will of a nation of many millions of 
inhabitants could exist ; 2, because even if it existed 
the majority of voices would not be its expression. 
Without insisting on the fact that those elected 
would legislate and administrate not for the general 
good but in order to maintain themselves in power 
without counting on the fact of the popular cor- 
ruption due to pressure and electoral corruption 
this fraud is particularly harmful because of the 
presumptuous slavery into which all those who 
submit to it fall. . . . These free men recall the 
prisoners who imagine that they are enjoying free- 
dom when they have the right to elect those of their 
gaolers who are entrusted with the interior policing 
of the prison. ... A member of a despotic State 
may be entirely free, even in the midst of the most 
brutal violence. But a member of a constitutional 
State is always a slave, for he recognises the legality 
of the violence done him. . . . And now men wish 



RELIGION AND POLITICS 205 

to lead the Russian people into the same state of 
constitutional slavery in which the other European 
peoples dwell ! " 

In his hostility towards Liberalism contempt was 
his dominant feeling. In respect of Socialism his 

1 The End of a World (1905-6). See the telegram addressed 
by Tolstoy to an American journal : " The agitation in the 
Zemstvos has as its object the limitation of despotic power 
and the establishment of a representative government. 
Whether or no they succeed the result will be a postpone- 
ment of any true social improvement. Political agitation, 
while producing the unfortunate illusion of such improvement 
by external means, arrests true progress, as may be proved by 
the example of all the constitutional States France, England, 
America, &c." (Preface to the French translation of The Great 
Crime, 1905.) 

In a long and interesting letter to a lady who asked him 
to join a Committee for the Propagation of Reading and 
'Writing among the People, Tolstoy expressed yet other 
objections to the Liberals : they have always played the 
part of dupes ; they act as the accomplices of the autocracy 
through fear ; their participation in the government gives the 
latter a moral prestige, and accustoms them to compromises, 
which quickly make them the instruments of power. 
Alexander II. used to say that all the Liberals were ready to 
sell themselves for honours if not for money ; Alexander III. 
was able, without danger, to eradicate the liberal work of his 
father. " The Liberals whispered among themselves that this 
did not please them ; but they continued to attend the 
tribunals, to serve the State and the press ; in the press they 
alluded to those things to which allusion was allowed, and 
were silent upon matters to which allusion was prohibited." 
They did the same under Nikolas II. "When this young 
man, who knows nothing and understands nothing, replies 
tactlessly and with effrontery to the representatives of the 
people, do the Liberals protest ? By no means . . . From 
every side they send the young Tsar their cowardly and 
flattering congratulations." {Further Letters.) 



206 TOLSTOY 

dominant feeling was or rather would have been 
hatred, if Tolstoy had not forbidden himself to hate 
anything whatever. He detested it doubly, because 
Socialism was the amalgamation of two lies : the lie 
of liberty and the lie of science. Does it not profess 
to be founded upon some sort of economic science, 
whose laws absolutely rule the progress of the world ? 
Tolstoy is very hard upon science. He has 
pages full of terrible irony concerning this modern 
superstition and " these futile problems : the origin 
of species, spectrum analysis, the nature of radium, 
the theory of numbers, animal fossils and other 
nonsense, to which people attach as much import- 
ance to-day as they attributed in the Middle Ages 
to the Immaculate Conception or the Duality of 
Substance." He derides these "servants of science, 
who, just as the servants of the Church, per- 
suade themselves and others that they are saving 
humanity ; who, like the Church, believe in their 
own infallibility, never agree among themselves, 
divide themselves into sects, and, like the Church, 
are the chief cause of unmannerliness, moral 
ignorance, and the long delay of humanity in 
freeing itself from the evils under which it suffers ; 
for they have rejected the only thing that could 
unite humanity : the religious conscience." x 

1 War and Revolution, 

In Resurrection, at the hearing of Maslova's appeal, in the 
Senate, it is a materialistic Darwinist who is most strongly 
opposed to the revision, because he is secretly shocked that 
Nekhludov should wish, as a matter of duty, to marry a prosti- 
tute ; any manifestation of duty, and still more, of religious 
feeling, having the effect upon him of a personal insult. 



RELIGION AND POLITICS 207 

But his anxiety redoubles, and his indignation 
bursts its bounds, when he sees the dangerous 
weapon of the new fanaticism in the hands of 
those who profess to be regenerating humanity. 
Every revolutionist saddens him when he resorts 
to violence. But the intellectual and theoretical 
revolutionary inspires him with horror : he is a 
pedantic murderer, an arrogant, sterile intelligence, 
who loves not men but ideas. 1 

Moreover, these ideas are of a low order. 

" The object of Socialism is the satisfaction of 
the lowest needs of man : his material well-being. 
And it cannot attain even this end by the means 
it recommends." 2 

At heart, he is without love. He feels only 
hatred for the oppressors and "a black envy for 
the assured and easy life of the rich : a greed like 
that of the flies that gather about ordure." 3 When 

1 As a type, take Novodvorov, the revolutionary leader in 
Resurrection, whose excessive vanity and egoism have sterilised 
a fine intelligence. No imagination ; "a total absence of the 
moral and aesthetic qualities which produce doubt." 

Following his footsteps like a shadow is Markel, the 
artisan who has become a revolutionist through humiliation 
and the desire for revenge ; a passionate worshipper of 
science, which he cannot comprehend; a fanatical anti- 
clerical and an ascetic. 

In Three More Dead or The Divine and the Human we shall 
find a few specimens of the new generation of revolutionaries : 
Romane and his friends, who despise the old Terrorists, and 
profess to attain their ends scientifically, by transforming an 
agricultural into an industrial people. 

2 Letters to the Japanese Izo-Abe, 1904. {Further Letters.) 

s Conversations, reported by Teneromo (published in 
Revolutionaries, 1906). 



208 TOLSTOY 

Socialism is victorious the aspect of the world will 
be terrible. The European horde will rush upon 
the weak and barbarous peoples with redoubled 
force, and will enslave them, in order that the 
ancient proletariats of Europe may debauch them- 
selves at their leisure by idle luxury, as did the 
people of Rome. 1 

Happily the principal energies of Socialism spend 
themselves in smoke in speeches, like those of 
M. Jaures. 

" What an admirable orator ! There is some- 
thing of everything in his speeches and there is 
nothing. . . . Socialism is a little like our Russian 
orthodoxy : you press it, you push it into its last 
trenches, you think you have got it fast, and 
suddenly it turns round and tells you : ' No, I'm 
not the one you think, I'm somebody else.' And 
it slips out of your hands. . . . Patience I Let 
time do its work. There will be socialistic theories, 
as there are women's fashions, which soon pass 
from the drawing-room to the servants' hall." 3 

Although Tolstoy waged war in this manner 
upon the Liberals and Socialists, it was not far 
from it to leave the field free for autocracy ; on 
the contrary, it was that the battle might be fought 
in all its fierceness between the old world and the 
new, after the army of disorderly and dangerous 
elements had been eliminated. For Tolstoy too 
was a believer in the Revolution. But his Revolu- 

1 Conversations, reported by Teneromo (published in 
Revolutionaries, 1906). 

a Conversation with M. Paul Boyer. (Le Temps, November 4, 
1902.) 



, 



RELIGION AND POLITICS 209 

tion was of a very different colour to that of the 
revolutionaries ; it was rather that of a believer of the 
Middle Ages, who looked on the morrow, perhaps 
that very day, for the reign of the Holy Spirit. 

" I believe that at this very hour the great 
revolution is beginning which has been preparing 
for two thousand years in the Christian world 
the revolution which will substitute for corrupted 
Christianity and the system of domination which 
proceeds therefrom the true Christianity, the basis 
of equality between men and of the true liberty 
to which all beings endowed with reason aspire." x 

What time does he choose, this seer and prophet, 
for his announcement of the new era of love and 
happiness ? The darkest hour of Russian history ; 
the hour of disaster and of shame ! Superb power 
of creative faith ! All around it is light even in 
darkness. Tolstoy saw in death the signs of re- 
newal ; in the calamities of the war in Manchuria, in 
the downfall of the Russian armies, in the frightful 
anarchy and the bloody struggle of the classes. His 
logic the logic of a dream ! drew from the victory 
of Japan the astonishing conclusion that Russia 
should withdraw from all warfare, because the non- 
Christian peoples will always have the advantage 
in warfare over the Christian peoples " who have 
passed through the phase of servile submission." 
Does this mean the abdication of the Russian 
people ? No ; this is pride at its supremest. 
Russia should withdraw from all warfare because 
she must accomplish "the great revolution." 
1 The End of a World. 

u 



210 TOLSTOY 

"The Revolution of 1905, which will set men 
free from brutal oppression, must commence in 
Russia. It is beginning." 

Why must Russia play the part of the chosen 
people ? Because the new Revolution must before 
all repair the " Great Crime," the great monopolisa- 
tion of the soil for the profit of a few thousands of 
wealthy men and the slavery of millions of men 
the cruellest of enslavements ; * and because no 
people was so conscious of this iniquity as the 
Russian people. 3 

x " The cruellest enslavement is to be deprived of the earth, 
for the slave of a master is the slave of only one ; but the man 
deprived of the land is the slave of all the world." (The Great 
Crime.) 

a Russia was actually in a somewhat special situation ; 
and although Tolstoy may have been wrong to found his 
generalisations concerning other European States upon the 
condition of Russia, we cannot be surprised that he was 
most sensible to the sufferings which touched him most 
nearly. See, in The Great Crime, his conversations on the 
road to Toula with the peasants, who were all in want of 
bread because they lacked land, and who were all secretly 
waiting for the land to be restored to them. The agricultural 
population of Russia forms 80 per cent, of the nation. A 
hundred million of men, says Tolstoy, are dying of hunger 
because of the seizure of the soil by the landed proprietors. 
When people speak to them of remedying their evils through 
the agency of the Press, or by the separation of Church and 
State, or by nationalist representation, or even by the eight- 
hours day, they impudently mock at them : 

"Those who are apparently looking everywhere for the 
means of bettering the condition of the masses of the people 
remind one of what one sees in the theatre, when all the 
spectators have an excellent view of an actor who is supposed 
to be concealed, while his fellow-players, who also have a full 



RELIGION AND POLITICS 211 

Again, and more especially, because the Russian 
people is of all peoples most thoroughly steeped in 
the true Christianity, so that the coming revolution 
should realise, in the name of Christ, the law of 
union and of love. Now this law of love cannot 
be fulfilled unless it is based upon the law of 
non-resistance to evil. 1 This non-resistance (let 
us mark this well, we who have the misfortune 
to see in it simply an Utopian fad peculiar to 
Tolstoy and to a few dreamers) has always been 
an essential trait of the Russian people. 

"The Russian people has always assumed, with 
regard to power, an attitude entirely strange to the 
other peoples of Europe. It has never entered 
upon a conflict with power ; it has never partici- 
pated in it, and consequently has never been 
depraved by it. It has regarded power as an evil 
which must be avoided. An ancient legend repre- 
sents the Russians as appealing to the Varingians 
to come and govern them. The majority of the 

view of him, pretend not to see him, and endeavour to distract 
one another's attention from him." 

There is no remedy but that of returning the soil to the 
labouring people. As a solution of the property question, 
Tolstoy recommends the doctrine of Henry George and his 
suggested single tax upon the value of the soil. This is his 
economic gospel ; he returns to it unwearied, and has 
assimilated it so thoroughly that in his writings he often 
uses entire phrases of George's. 

1 " The law of non-resistance to evil is the keystone of the 
whole building. To admit the law of mutual help while 
misunderstanding the precept of non-resistance is to build 
the vault without sealing the central portion." (The End of 
a World.) 



212 TOLSTOY 

Russians have always preferred to submit to acts of 
violence rather than respond with violence or partici- 
pate therein. They have therefore always submitted. 

"A voluntary submission, having nothing in 
common with servile obedience. 1 

"The true Christian may submit, indeed it is 
impossible for him not to submit without a 
struggle to no matter what violence ; but he 
could not obey it that is, he could not recognise 
it as legitimate." 2 

At the time of writing these lines Tolstoy was 
still subject to the emotion caused by one of 
the most tragical examples of this heroic non- 
resistance of a people the bloody manifestation 
of January 22nd in St. Petersburg, when an 
unarmed crowd, led by Father Gapon, allowed 
itself to be shot down without a cry of hatred 
or a gesture of self-defence. 

For a long time the Old Believers, known in 
Russia as the Sectators, had been obstinately practis- 
ing, in spite of persecution, non-obedience to the 
State, and had refused to recognise the legitimacy of 
its power.3 The absurdity of the Russo-Japanese 

1 In a letter written in 1900 to a friend (Further Letters) 
Tolstoy complains of the false interpretation given to his 
doctrine of non-resistance. People, he says, confound Do 
not oppose evil by evil with Do not oppose evil : that is to 
say, Be indifferent to evil. . . ." " Whereas the conflict with 
evil is the sole object of Christianity, and the commandment 
of non-resistance to evil is given as the most effectual means 
of conflict." 

The End of a World. 

s Tolstoy has drawn two types of these " Sectators," one in 
Resurrection (towards the end) and one in Three More Dead. 



RELIGION AND POLITICS 213 

war enabled this state of mind to spread without 
difficulty through the rural districts. Refusals of 
military service became more and more general ; 
and the more brutally they were punished the more 
stubborn the revolt grew in secret. In the provinces, 
moreover, whole races who knew nothing of Tolstoy 
had given the example of an absolute and passive 
refusal to obey the State the Doukhobors of the 
Caucasus as early as 1898 and the Georgians of the 
Gouri towards 1905. Tolstoy influenced these move- 
ments far less than they influenced him ; and the 
interest of his writings lies in the fact that in spite 
of the criticisms of those writers who were of the 
party of revolution, as was Gorky, 1 he was the 
mouthpiece of the Old Russian people. 

The attitude which he preserved, in respect of 
men who at the peril of their lives were putting into 
practice the principles which he professed, 3 was one 
of extreme modesty and dignity. Neither to the 

1 After Tolstoy's condemnation of the upheaval in the 
Zemstvos, Gorky, making himself the interpreter of the dis- 
pleasure of his friends, wrote as follows : " This man has 
become the slave of his theory. For a long time he has isolated 
himself from the life of Russia, and he no longer listens to 
the voice of the people. He hovers over Russia at too great 
a height." 

3 It was a bitter trial to him that he could not contrive to be 
persecuted. He had a thirst for martyrdom ; but the Govern- 
ment very wisely took good care not to satisfy him. 

"They are persecuting my friends all around me, and 
leaving me in peace, although if any one is dangerous it is I. 
Evidently I am not worth persecution, and I am ashamed of 
the fact." (Letter to Teneromo, 1892, Further Letters.) 

* Evidently I am not worthy of persecution, and I shall have 



214 TOLSTOY 

Doukhobors and the Gourians nor to the refractory 
soldiers did he assume the pose of a master or 
teacher. 

" He who suffers no trials can teach nothing to 
him who does so suffer." 

He implores "the forgiveness of all those whom his 
words and his writings may have caused to suffer." x 

He never urges any one to refuse military service. 
It is a matter for every man to decide for himself. 
If he discusses the matter with any one who is 
hesitating, "he always advises him not to refuse 
obedience so long as it would not be morally 
impossible." For if a man hesitates it is because he 
is not ripe ; and " it is better to have one soldier the 
more than a regenade or hypocrite, which is what 
becomes of those who undertake a task beyond their 

to die like this, without having ever been able to testify to the 
truth by physical suffering." (To Teneromo, May 16, 1892, ibid.) 

"It hurts me to be at liberty." (To Teneromo, June i, 
1894, ibid.) 

That he was at liberty was, Heaven knows, no fault of his ! 
He insults the Tsars, he attacks the fatherland, " that ghastly 
fetish to which men sacrifice their life and liberty and 
reason." (The End of a World.) Then see, in War and 
Revolution, the summary of Russian history. It is a gallery of 
monsters : " The maniac Ivan the Terrible, the drunkard 
Peter I., the ignorant cook, Catherine L, the sensual and 
profligate Elizabeth, the degenerate Paul, the parricide 
Alexander I. [the only one of them for whom Tolstoy felt 
a secret liking], the cruel and ignorant Nikolas I. ; Alexander 
II., unintelligent and evil rather than good ; Alexander III., an 
undeniable sot, brutal and ignorant; Nikolas II., an innocent 
young officer of hussars, with an entourage of coxcombs, a 
young man who knows nothing and understands nothing." 

1 Letter to Gontcharenko, a "refractory," January 17, 1903. 
(Further Letters.) 



RELIGION AND POLITICS 215 

strength." 1 He distrusts the resolution of the 
refractory Gontcharenko. He fears "that this young 
man may have been carried away by vanity and 
vainglory, not by the love of God." a To the Douk- 
hobors he writes that they should not persist in 
their refusal of obedience out of pride, but " if they 
are capable of so doing, they should save their weaker 
women and their children. No one will blame them 
for that." They must persist " only if the spirit of 
Christ is indeed within them, because then they will 
be happy to suffer." 3 In any case he prays those 
who are persecuted " at any cost not to break their 
affectionate relations with those who persecute 
them." 4 One must love even Herod, as he says in 
a letter to a friend : u You say, ' One cannot love 
Herod.' I do not know, but I feel, and you also, that 
one must love him. I know, and you also, that if I 
do not love him I suffer, that there is no life in me." 5 
The Divine purity, the unvarying ardour of this 
love, which in the end can no longer be contented 
even by the words of the Gospel : " Love thy neigh- 
bour as thyself/' because he finds in them a taint of 
egoism 1 6 

1 Letter to a friend, 1900. (Correspondence.) 
3 To Gontcharenko, February 2, 1903 (ibid.). 

3 To the Doukhobors of the Caucasus, 1898 (ibid.). 

4 To Gontcharenko, January 17, 1903 (ibid.). 

5 Toa friend, November, 190 1. (Correspondence.) 

6 " It is like a crack in a pneumatic machine ; all the vapour 
of egoism that we wish to drain from the human soul re-enters 
by it." He ingeniously strives to prove that the original text 
has been wrongly read ; that the exact wording of the Second 
Commandment was in fact " Love thy neighbour as Himself 
(as God)." (Conversations with Teneromo.) 



216 TOLSTOY 

Too vast a love in the opinion of some ; and so 
free from human egoism that it wastes itself in 
the void. Yet who more than Tolstoy distrusts 
"abstract love" ? 

" The greatest modern sin : the abstract love of 
humanity, impersonal love for those who are 
somewhere, out of sight. ... To love those we do 
not know, those whom we shall never meet, is so 
easy a thing ! There is no need to sacrifice any- 
thing ; and at the same time we are so pleased with 
ourselves 1 The conscience is fooled. No. We 
must love our neighbours those we live with, and 
who are in our way and embarrass us." x 

I have read in most of the studies of Tolstoy's 
work that his faith and philosophy are not original. 
It is true ; the beauty of these ideas is eternal and 
can never appear a momentary fashion. Others 
complain of their Utopian character. This also is 
true ; they are Utopian, the New Testament is 
Utopian. A prophet is a Utopian ; he treads the 
earth but sees the life of eternity ; and that this 
apparition should have been granted to us, that we 
should have seen among us the last of the prophets, 
that the greatest of our artists should wear this 
aureole on his brow there, it seems to me, is a fact 
more novel and of far greater importance to the 
world than one religion the more, or a new 
philosophy. Those are blind who do not perceive 
the miracle of this great mind, the incarnation of 
fraternal love in the midst of a people and a century 
stained with the blood of hatred I 

1 Conversations with Teneromo. 



XVII 
OLD AGE 



1 



CHAPTER XVII 

OLD AGE 

His face had taken on definite lines ; had become 
as it will remain in the memory of men : the large 
countenance, crossed by the arch of a double 
furrow ; the white, bristling eyebrows ; the patri- 
archal beard, recalling that of the Moses of Dijon. 
The aged face was gentler and softer ; it bore 
the traces of illness, of sorrow, of disappointment, 
and of affectionate kindness. What a change from 
the almost animal brutality of the same face at 
twenty, and the heavy rigidity of the soldier of 
Sebastopol ! But the eyes have always the same 
profound fixity, the same look of loyalty, which 
hides nothing and from which nothing is hidden. 

Nine years before his death, in his reply to the 
Holy Synod (April 17, 1901) Tolstoy had said : 

" I owe it to my faith to live in peace and 
gladness, and to be able also, in peace and gladness, 
to travel on towards death." 

Reading this I am reminded of the ancient 
saying : " that we should call no man happy until 
he is dead." 



220 TOLSTOY 

Were they lasting, this peace and joy that he then 
boasted of possessing ? 

The hopes of the "great Revolution" of 1905 
had vanished. The shadows had gathered more 
thickly ; the expected light had never risen. To the 
upheavals of the revolutionaries exhaustion had 
succeeded. Nothing of the old injustice was 
altered, except that poverty had increased. Even 
in 1906 Tolstoy had lost a little of his confidence in 
the historic vocation of the Russian Slavs, and his 
obstinate faith sought abroad for other peoples 
whom he might invest with this mission. He 
thought of the "great and wise Chinese nation." 
He believed "that the peoples of the Orient were 
called to recover that liberty which the peoples of 
the Occident had lost almost without chance of 
recovery " ; and that China, at the head of the 
Asiatic peoples, would accomplish the transformation 
of humanity in the way of Tao, the eternal Law. 1 

A hope quickly destroyed : the China of Lao-Tse 
and Confucius was decrying its bygone wisdom, as 
Japan had already done in order to imitate Europe. 3 
The persecuted Doukhobors had migrated to 
Canada, and there, to the scandal of Tolstoy, they 
immediately reverted to the property system.3 The 

1 Letter to the Chinese, October, 1906. (Further Letters.) 
a Tolstoy expressed a fear that this might happen in the 
above letter. 

3 " It was hardly worth while to refuse military and police 
service only to revert to property, which is maintained only 
by those two services. Those who enter the service and 
profit by property act better than those who refuse all service 
and enjoy property." (Letter to the Doukhobors of Canada, 
1899. Further Letters.) 



OLD AGE 221 

Gourians were scarcely delivered from the yoke of 
the State when they began to destroy those who did 
not think as they did ; and the Russian troops were 
called out to put matters in order. The very Jews, 
"whose native country had hitherto been the fairest 
a man could desire the Book/' " were attacked by 
the malady of Zionism, that movement of false 
nationalism, " which is flesh of the flesh of contem- 
porary Europeanism, or rather its rickety child." 2 

Tolstoy was saddened, but not discouraged. He 
had faith in God and in the future. 

" All would be perfect if one could grow a forest 
in the wink of an eye. Unhappily, this is im- 
possible ; we must wait until the seed germinates, 
until the shoots push up, the leaves come, and then 
the stem which finally becomes a tree." 3 

But many trees are needed to make a forest ; and 
Tolstoy was alone ; glorious, but alone. Men wrote 
to him from all parts of the world ; from Mohame- 
dan countries, from China and Japan, where Resur- 
rection was translated, and where his ideas upon 
"the restitution of the land to the people" were 
being propagated.4 The American papers inter- 

1 In the Conversations with Teneromo there is a fine page 
dealing with " the wise Jew, who, immersed in this Book, has 
not seen the centuries crumble above his head, nor the peoples 
that appear and disappear from the face of the earth." 

3 To see the progress of Europe in the horrors of the 
modern State, the bloodstained State, and to wish to create a 
new Judenstaat is an abominable sin." {Ibid.) 

3 Appeal to Political Men, 1905. 

* In the appendix to The Great Crime and in the French 
translation of Advice to the Ruled is the appeal of a Japanese 
society for the Re-establishment of the Liberty of the Earth. 



222 TOLSTOY 

viewed him ; the French consulted him on matters 
of art, or the separation of Church and State. 1 

But he had not three hundred disciples, and he 
knew it. Moreover, he did not take pains to make 
them. He repulsed the attempts of his friends to 
form groups of Tolstoyans. 

" We must not go in search of one another, but 
we must all seek God. . . . You say : * Together it 
is easier.' What ? To labour, to reap, yes. But 
to draw near to God one can only do so in 
isolation. ... I see the world as an enormous 
temple in which the light falls from on high and 
precisely in the middle. To become united we 
must all go towards the light. Then all of us, come 
together from all directions, will find ourselves in 
the company of men we did not look for ; in that 
is the joy." 2 

How many have found themselves together under 
the ray which falls from the dome ? What matter ! 
It is enough to be one and alone if one is with 
God. 

u As only a burning object can communicate fire 
to other objects, so only the true faith and life of a 
man can communicate themselves to other men and 
to spread the truth." 3 

Perhaps ; but to what point was this isolated faith 
able to assure Tolstoy of happiness ? How far he 

x Letter to Paul Sabaticr, November 7, 1906. (Further 
Letters.) 

8 Letters to Teneromo, June, 1882, and to a friend, 
November, 1901. (Further Letters.) 

3 War and Revolution, 



OLD AGE 223 

was, in his latter days, from the voluntary calm of a 
Goethe ! One would almost say that he* avoided it, 
fled from it, hated it. 

"One must thank God for being discontented 
with oneself. If one could always be so ! The 
discord of life with what ought to be is precisely 
the sign of life itself, the movement upwards from 
the lesser to the greater, from worse to better. And 
this discord is the condition of good. It is an evil 
when a man is calm and satisfied with himself." x 

He imagines the following subject for a novel 
showing that the persistent discontent of a Levine 
or a Besoukhov was not yet extinct in him : 

" I often picture to myself a man brought up in 
revolutionary circles, and at first a revolutionist, 
then a populist, then a socialist, then orthodox, 
then a monk at Afone, then an atheist, a good 
paterfamilias, and finally a Doukhobor. He takes 
up everything and is always forsaking everything ; 
men deride him, for he has performed nothing, and 
dies, forgotten, in a hospital. Dying, he thinks he 
has wasted his life. And yet he is a saint." 2 

Had he still doubts he, so full of faith ? Who 
knows ? In a man who has remained robust in 
body and mind even into old age life cannot come 
to a halt at a definite stage of thought. Life goes 
onwards. 

" Movement is life." 3 

1 War and Revolution. 

9 Perhaps this refers to the History of a Doukhobor, the title 
of which figures in the list of Tolstoy's unpublished works. 

3 " Suppose that all the men who had the truth were to be 
installed all together on an island. Would that be life ? " 
(To a friend, March, 1901. Further Letters.) 



224 TOLSTOY 

Many things must have changed within him 
during the last few years. Did he not modify his 
opinion of revolutionaries ? Who can even say 
that his faith in non-resistance to evil was not 
at length a little shaken ? Even in Resurrection 
the relations of Nekhludov with the condemned 
" politicals " completely change his ideas as to the 
Russian revolutionary party. 

" Up till that time he had felt an aversion for 
their cruelty, their criminal dissimulation, their 
attempts upon life, their sufficiency, their self- 
contentment, their insupportable vanity. But when 
he saw them more closely, when he saw how they 
were treated by the authorities, he understood that 
they could not be otherwise." 

And he admires their high ideal of duty, which 
implies total self-sacrifice. 

Since 1900, however, the revolutionary tide had 
risen ; starting from the u intellectuals," it had 
gained the people, and was obscurely moving 
amidst the thousands of the poor. The advance- 
guard of their threatening army defiled below 
Tolstoy's window at Yasnaya Polyana. Three tales, 
published by the Mercure de France, 1 which were 
among the last pages written by Tolstoy, give us a 
glimpse of the sorrow and the perplexity which 
this spectacle caused him. The years were indeed 
remote when the pilgrims wandered through the 
countryside of Toula, pious and simple of heart. 
Now he saw the invasion of starving wanderers. 
They came to him every day. Tolstoy, who chatted 
1 December 1, 1910. 



OLD AGE 225 

with them, was struck by the hatred that animated 
them ; they no longer, as before, saw the rich as 
" people who save their souls by distributing alms, 
but as bandits, brigands, who drink the blood of 
the labouring people." Many were educated men, 
ruined, on the brink of that despair which makes a 
man capable of anything. 

" It is not in the deserts and the forests, but in 
slums of cities and on the great highways that the 
barbarians are reared who will do to modern 
civilisation what the Huns and Vandals did to the 
ancient civilisation." 

So said Henry George. And Tolstoy adds : 

"The Vandals are already here in Russia, and 
they will be particularly terrible among our pro- 
foundly religious people, because we know nothing 
of the curbs, the convenances and public opinion, 
which are so strongly developed among European 
peoples." 

Tolstoy often received letters from these rebels, 
protesting against his doctrine of non-resistance to 
evil, and saying that the evil that the rulers and the 
wealthy do to the people can only be replied to 
by cries of " Vengeance ! Vengeance ! Vengeance ! " 
Did Tolstoy still condemn them ? We do not 
know. But when, a few days later, he saw in his 
own village the villagers weeping while their sheep 
and their samovars were seized and taken from 
them by callous authorities, he also cried vengeance 
in vain against these thieves, " these ministers 
and their acolytes, who are engaged in the brandy 
traffic, or in teaching men to murder, or condemning 

15 



TOLSTOY 

men to deportation, prison, or the gallows these 
men, all perfectly convinced that the samovars, 
sheep, calves, and linen which they took from the 
miserable peasants would find their highest use in 
furthering the distillation of brandy which poisons 
the drinker, in the manufacture of murderous 
weapons, in the construction of jails and convict 
prisons, and above all in the distribution of 
appointments to their assistants and themselves." 

It is sad, after a whole life lived in the expectation 
and the proclamation of the reign of love, to be 
forced to close ones eye's in the midst of these 
threatening visions, and to feel one's whole position 
crumbling. It is still sadder for one with the 
impeccably truthful conscience of a Tolstoy to be 
forced to confess to oneself that one's life has 
not been lived entirely in accordance with one's 
principles. 

Here we touch upon the most pitiful point of 
these latter years should we say of the last thirty 
years ? and we can only touch upon it with a 
pious and tentative hand, for this sorrow, of which 
Tolstoy endeavoured to keep the secret, belongs not 
only to him who is dead, but to others who are 
living, whom he loved, and who loved him. 

He was never able to communicate his faith 
to those who were dearest to him his wife and 
children. We have seen how the loyal comrade, 
who had so valiantly shared his artistic life and 
labour, suffered when he denied his faith in art 
for a different and a moral faith, which she did 
not understand. Tolstoy suffered no less at feel- 



OLD AGE 227 

ing that he was misunderstood by his nearest 
friend. 

" I feel in all my being," he wrote to Teneromo, 
" the truth of these words : that the husband and 
the wife are not separate beings, but are as one. . . . 
I wish most earnestly that I had the power to 
transmit to my wife a portion of that religious 
conscience which gives me the possibility of some- 
times raising myself above the sorrows of life. 
I hope that it will be given her ; very probably not 
by me, but by God, although this conscience is 
hardly accessible to women." x 

It seems that this wish was never gratified. 
Countess Tolstoy loved and admired the purity of 
heart, the candid heroism, and the goodness of the 
great man who was u as one " with her ; she saw 
that "he marched ahead of the host and showed 
men the way they should follow " ; 2 when the 
Holy Synod excommunicated him she bravely 
undertook his defence and insisted on sharing the 
danger which threatened him. But she could not 
force herself to believe what she did not believe ; 
and Tolstoy was too sincere to urge her to 
pretend he who loathed the petty deceits of faith 
and love even more than the negation of faith and 
love.3 How then could he constrain her, not 

1 May 16, 1892. Tolstoy's wife was then mourning the 
loss of a little boy, and he could do nothing to console her. 

2 Letter of January, 1883. 

3 " I should never reproach any one for having no religion. 
The shocking thing is when men lie and pretend to religion." 
And further : " May God preserve us from pretending to love ; 
it is worse than hatred." 



228 TOLSTOY 

believing, to modify her life, to sacrifice her fortune 
and that of her children ? 

With his children the rift was wider still. 
M. Leroy-Beaulieu, who saw Tolstoy with his 
family at Yasnaya Polyana, says that "at table, 
when the father was speaking, the sons barely 
concealed their weariness and unbelief." His 
faith had only slightly affected two or three of his 
daughters, of whom one, Marie, was dead. He 
was morally isolated in the heart of his family." 
44 He had scarcely any one but his youngest daughter 
and his doctor" 2 to understand him. 

He suffered from this mental loneliness ; and he 
suffered from the social relations which were forced 
upon him ; the reception of fatiguing visitors from 
every quarter of the globe ; Americans, and the idly 
curious, who wore him out ; he suffered from the 
44 luxury " in which his family life forced him to 
live. It was a modest luxury, if we are to believe 
the accounts of those who saw him in his simple 
house, with its almost austere appointments ; in 
his little room, with its iron bed, its cheap chairs, 
and its naked walls 1 But even this poor comfort 
weighed upon him ; it was a cause of perpetual 
remorse. In the second of the tales published by 
the Mercure de France he bitterly contrasts the 
spectacle of the poverty about him with the luxury 
of his own house. 

44 My activity," he wrote as early as 1903, 44 how- 
ever useful it may appear to certain people, loses 

x Revue des Deux Mondes, December 15, 1910. 
8 Ibid. 



OLD AGE 229 

the greater part of its importance by the fact 
that my life is not entirely in agreement with my 
professions." 

Why did he not realise this agreement ? If he 
could not induce his family to cut themselves off 
from the world, why did he not leave them, go 
out of their life, thus avoiding the sarcasm and 
the reproach of hypocrisy expressed by his enemies, 
who were only too glad to follow his example and 
make it an excuse for denying his doctrines ? 

He had thought of so doing. For a long time he 
was quite resolved. A remarkable letter 2 of his has 
recently been found and published ; it was written 
to his wife on the 8th of June, 1897. The greater 
part of it is printed below. Nothing could better 
express the secret of this loving and unhappy heart : 

"For a long time, dear Sophie, I have been 
suffering from the discord between my life and my 
beliefs. I cannot force you to change your life or 
your habits. Neither have I hitherto been able to 
leave you, for I felt that by my departure I should 
deprive the children, still very young, of the little 
influence I might be able to exert over them, and 
also that I should cause you all a great deal of pain. 
But I cannot continue to live as I have lived during 
these last sixteen years,3 now struggling against you 
and irritating you, now succumbing myself to the 

1 To a friend, December 10, 1903. 

2 Figaro, December 27, 1910. It was found among 
Tolstoy's papers after his death. 

3 This state of suffering dates, as we see, from 1881 ; that is, 
from the winter passed in Moscow, and Tolstoy's discovery of 
social wretchedness. 



230 TOLSTOY 

influences and the seductions to which I am accus- 
tomed and which surround me. I have resolved 
now to do what I have wished to do for a long 
time : to go away. . . . Just as the Hindoos, when 
they arrive at their sixtieth year, go away into the 
forest ; just as every aged and religious man wishes 
to consecrate the last years of his life to God and 
not to jesting, punning, family tittle-tattle, and lawn- 
tennis ; so do I with all my strength desire peace and 
solitude, and, if not an absolute harmony, at least not 
this crying discord between my whole life and my 
conscience. If I had gone away openly there would 
have been supplications, discussions, arguments ; I 
should have weakened, and perhaps I should not 
have carried out my decision, and it ought to be 
carried out. I beg you therefore to forgive me if 
my action grieves you. And you in particular, 
Sophie let me go, do not try to find me, do not be 
angry with me, and do not blame me. The fact 
that I have left you does not prove that I have any 
grievance against you. ... I know that you could 
not, could not see and think with me ; this is why 
you could not change your life, could not sacrifice 
yourself to something you did not understand. I 
do not blame you at all ; on the contrary, I re- 
member with love and gratitude the thirty-five long 
years of our life together, and above all the first half 
of that period, when, with the courage and devotion 
of your mother's nature, you valiantly fulfilled what 
you saw as your mission. You have given to me 
and the world what you had to give. You have 
given much maternal love and made great sacrifices. 



OLD AGE 231 

. . . But in the latter period of our life, in the last 
fifteen years, our paths have lain apart. I cannot 
believe that I am the guilty one ; I know that I have 
changed ; it was not your doing, nor the world's ; 
it was because I could not do otherwise. I cannot 
blame you for not having followed me, and I shall 
always remember with love what you have given 
me. . . . Goodbye, my dear Sophie. I love you." 

" The fact that I have left you." He did not leave 
her. Poor letter ! It seemed to him that it was 
enough to write, and his resolution would be ful- 
filled. . . . Having written, his resolution was 
already exhausted. " If I had gone away openly 
there would have been supplications, I should have 
weakened." . . . There was no need of supplications, 
of discussion ; it was enough for him to see, a 
moment later, those whom he wished to leave ; 
he felt that he could not, could not leave them ; and 
he took the letter in his pocket and buried it among 
his papers, with this subscription : 

u Give this, after my death, to my wife Sophie 
Andreyevna." 

And this was the end of his plan of departure. 
Was he not strong enough ? Was he not capable 
of sacrificing his affections to his God ? In the 
Christian annals there is no lack of saints with 
tougher hearts, who never hesitated to trample 
fearlessly underfoot both their own affections and 
those of others. But how could he ? He was not 
of their company ; he was weak : he was a man ; 
and it is for that reason that we love him. 

More than fifteen years earlier, on a page full of 



232 TOLSTOY 

heart-breaking wretchedness, he had asked himself : 
" Well, Leo Tolstoy, are you living according to 
the principles you profess ? " 

He replied miserably : 

" I am dying of shame ; I am guilty ; I am con- 
temptible. . . . Yet compare my former life with 
my life of to-day. You will see that I am trying to 
live according to the laws of God. I have not done 
the thousandth part of what I ought to do, and I am 
confused ; but I have failed to do it not because 
I did not wish to do it, but because I could not. 
. . . Blame me, but not the path I am taking. If 
I know the road to my house, and if I stagger along 
it like a drunken man, does that show that the road 
is bad ? Show me another, or follow me along the 
true path, as I am ready to follow you. But do not 
discourage me, do not rejoice in my distress, do not 
joyfully cry out : ' Look ! He said he was going to 
the house, and he is falling into the ditch 1 ' No, 
do not be glad, but help me, support me ! . . . Help 
me ! My heart is torn with despair lest we should 
all be astray ; and when I make every effort to 
escape you, at each effort, instead of having com- 
passion, point at me with your finger crying, l Look, 
he is falling into the ditch with us 1 '" x 

When death was nearer, he wrote once more : 

" I am not a saint : I have never professed to be 
one. I am a man who allows himself to be carried 
away, and who often does not say all that he thinks 
and feels ; not because he does not want to, but 

1 Letter to a friend, 1895 (the French version being 
published in Plaisirs cruets, 1895). 



OLD AGE 233 

because he cannot, because it often happens that he 
exaggerates or is mistaken. In my actions it is still 
worse. I am altogether a weak man with vicious 
habits, who wishes to serve the God of truth, but 
who is constantly stumbling. If I am considered as 
a man who cannot be mistaken, then each of my 
mistakes must appear as a lie or a hypocrisy. But 
if I am regarded as a weak man, I appear then what 
I am in reality : a pitiable creature, yet sincere ; 
who has constantly and with all his soul desired, 
and who still desires, to become a good man, a good 
servant of God." 

Thus he remained, tormented by remorse, pur- 
sued by the mute reproaches of disciples more 
energetic and less human than himself; tortured by 
his weakness and indecision, torn between the love 
of his family and the love of God until the day 
when a sudden fit of despair, and perhaps the fever 
which rises at the approach of death, drove him 
forth from the shelter of his house, out upon the 

1 It seems that during his last few years, and especially 
during the last few months, he was influenced by Vladimir- 
Grigorovitch Tchertkoff, a devoted friend, who, long established 
in England, had consecrated his fortune to the publication and 
distribution of Tolstoy's complete works. Tchertkoff had 
been violently attacked by Leo, Tolstoy's eldest son. But 
although he was accused of being a rebellious and unmanage- 
able spirit, no one could doubt his absolute devotion ; and 
without approving of the almost inhuman harshness of certain 
actions apparently committed under his inspiration (such as 
the will by which Tolstoy deprived his wife of all property in 
his writings without exception, including his private corre- 
spondence), we are forced to believe that he thought more of 
Tolstoy's fame than Tolstoy himself. 



234 TOLSTOY 

roads, wandering, fleeing, knocking at the doors of a 
convent, then resuming his flight, and at last falling 
upon the way, in an obscure little village, never to 
rise again. 1 On his death-bed he wept, not for him- 
self, but for the unhappy ; and he said, in the midst 
of his sobs : 

" There are millions of human beings on earth who 
are suffering : why do you think only of me ? " 

Then it came it was Sunday, November 20, 
1910, a little after six in the morning the " de- 
liverance," as he named it : " Death, blessed Death." 

1 The Correspondance of the Union pour la VeriU publishes, in 
its issue for January 1, 191 1, an interesting account of this flight. 

Tolstoy left Yasnaya Polyana suddenly on October 28, 1910 
(November 10th European style) about five o'clock in the 
morning. He was accompanied by Dr. Makovitski ; his 
daughter Alexandra, whom Tchertkoff calls " his most intimate 
collaborator," was in the secret. At six in the evening of the 
same day he reached the monastery of Optina, one of the 
most celebrated sanctuaries of Russia, which he had often 
visited in pilgrimage. He passed the night there ; the next 
morning he wrote a long article on the death penalty. On 
the evening of October 29th (November nth) he went to the 
monastery of Chamordino, where his sister Marie was a nun. 
He dined with her, and spoke of how he would have wished 
to pass the end of his life at Optina, " performing the humblest 
tasks, on condition that he was not forced to go to church." 
He slept at Chamordino, and next morning took a walk 
through the neighbouring village, where he thought of taking 
a lodging ; returning to his sister in the afternoon. At five 
o'clock his daughter Alexandra unexpectedly arrived. She 
doubtless told him that his retreat was known, and that he 
was being followed ; they left at once in the night. " Tolstoy, 
Alexandra, and Makoviktsi were making for the Koselk 
station, probably intending to gain the southern provinces, or 
perhaps the Doukhobor colonies in the Caucasus." On the 
way Tolstoy fell ill at the railway-station of Astapovo and was 
forced to take to his bed. It was there that he died. 



XVIII 
CONCLUSION 



XVIII 

CONCLUSION 

The struggle was ended ; the struggle that had 

lasted for eighty-two years, whose battlefield was 

this life of ours. A tragic and glorious mellay, in 

which all the forces of life took part ; all the vices 

and all the virtues. All the vices excepting one : 

untruth, which he pursued incessantly, tracking it 

into its last resort and refuge. 

In the beginning intoxicated liberty, the conflict 

of passions in the stormy darkness, illuminated 

from time to time by dazzling flashes of light 

crises of love and ecstasy and visions of the Eternal. 

Years of the Caucasus, of Sebastopol ; years of 

tumultuous and restless youth. Then the great 

peace of the first years of marriage. The happiness 

of love, of art, of nature War and Peace. The 

broad daylight of genius, which bathed the whole 

human horizon, and the spectacle of those struggles 

which for the soul of the artist were already things 

of the past. He dominated them, was master of 

them, and already they were not enough. Like 

Prince Andrei, his eyes were turned towards the 

237 



TOLSTOY 

vast skies which shone above the battlefield. It 
was this sky that attracted him : 

" There are men with powerful wings whom 
pleasure leads to alight in the midst of the crowd, 
when their pinions are broken ; such, for instance, 
am I. Then they beat their broken wings ; they 
launch themselves desperately, but fall anew. The 
wings will mend. I shall fly high. May God help 
me!"* 

These words were written in the midst of a 
terrible spiritual tempest, of which the Confessions 
are the memory and echo. More than once was 
Tolstoy thrown to earth, his pinions shattered. 
But he always persevered. He started afresh. We 
see him hovering in " the vast, profound heavens," 
with his two great wings, of which one is reason 
and the other faith. But he does not find the peace 
he looked for. Heaven is not without us, but 
within us. Tolstoy fills it with the tempest of his 
passions. There he perceives the apostles of renun- 
ciation, and he brings to renunciation the same 

1 Journal, dated October 28, 1879. Here is the entire 
passage : 

" There are in this world heavy folk, without wings. They 
struggle down below. There are strong men among them : 
as Napoleon. He leaves terrible traces among humanity. He 
sows discord. There are men who let their wings grow, 
slowly launch themselves, and hover : the monks. There are 
light fliers, who easily mount and fall : the worthy idealists. 
There are men with powerful wings. . . . There are the 
celestial ones, who out of their love of men descend to earth 
and fold their wings, and teach others how to fly. Then, 
when they are no longer needed, they re-ascend : as did 
Christ." 



CONCLUSION 239 

ardour that he brought to life. But it is always 
life that he strains to him, with the violence of a 
lover. He is "maddened with life." He is "intoxi- 
cated with life." He cannot live without this mad- 
ness. 1 He is drunk at once with happiness and 
with unhappiness, with death and with immortality. 2 
His renunciation of individual life is only a cry of 
exalted passion towards the eternal life. The peace 
which he finds, the peace of the soul which he 
invokes, is not the peace of death. It is rather the 
calm of those burning worlds which sail by the 
forces of gravity through the infinite spaces. With 
him anger is calm,3 and the calm is blazing. Faith 
has given him new weapons with which to wage, 
even more implacably, unceasing war upon the lies 
of modern society. He no longer confines himself 
to a few types of romance ; he attacks all the great 
idols : the hypocrisies of religion, the State, science, 
art, liberalism, socialism, popular education, bene- 

1 "One can live only while one is drunken with life 
(Confessions, 1879). " I am mad with living. ... It is summer, 
the delicious summer. This year I have struggled for a long 
time ; but the beauty of nature has conquered me. I rejoice 
in life." (Letter to Fet, July, 1880.) These lines were written 
at the height of the religious crisis. 

3 In his Journal, dated May 1, 1863: "The thought of 
death." ..." I desire and love immortality." 

3 " I was intoxicated with that boiling anger and indigna- 
tion which I love to feel, which I excite even when I feel it 
naturally, because it acts upon me in such a way as to calm 
me, and gives me, at least for a few moments, an extraordinary 
elasticity, and the full fire and energy of all the physical and 
moral capacities." (Diary of Prince D. Nekhludov, Lucerne, 
i857.) 



240 TOLSTOY 

volence, pacificism. 1 He strikes at all, delivers his 
desperate attacks upon all. 

From time to time the world has sight of these 
great rebellious spirits, who, like John the Fore- 
runner, hurl anathemas against a corrupted civilisa- 
tion. The last of these was Rousseau. By his love 
of nature, 2 by his hatred of modern society, by his 

1 His article on War, written on the occasion of the 
Universal Peace Congress in London in 1891, is a rude satire 
on the peacemakers who believe in international arbitration : 

" This is the story of the bird which is caught after a pinch 
of salt has been put on his tail. It is quite as easy to catch 
him without it. They laugh at us who speak of arbitration 
and disarmament by consent of the Powers. Mere verbiage, 
this ! Naturally the Governments approve : worthy apostles ! 
They know very well that their approval will never prevent 
their doing as they will." (Cruel Pleasures.) 

3 Nature was always "the best friend" of Tolstoy, as he 
loved to say : "A friend is good ; but he will die, or he will 
go abroad, and one cannot follow him ; while Nature, to which 
one may be united by an act of purchase or by inheritance, is 
better. Nature to me is cold and exacting, repulses me and 
hinders me ; yet Nature is a friend whom we keep until death, 
and into whom we shall enter when we die." (Letter to Fet, 
May 19, 1861. Further Letters.) He shared in the life of 
nature ; he was born again in the spring. " March and April 
are my best months for work." Towards the end of autumn 
he became more torpid. " To me it is the most dead of all 
the seasons ; I do not think ; I do not write ; I feel agreeably 
stupid." (To Fet, October, 1869.) But the Nature that spoke 
so intimately to his heart was that of his own home, Yasnaya 
Polyana. Although he wrote some very charming notes upon 
the Lake of Geneva when travelling in Switzerland, and 
especially on the Clarens district, whither the memory of 
Rousseau attracted him, he felt himself a stranger amid the 
Swiss landscape ; and the ties of his native land appeared 
more closely drawn and sweeter : " I love Nature when she 



CONCLUSION 241 

jealous independence, by his fervent adoration of 
the Gospel and for Christian morals, Rousseau is a 
precursor of Tolstoy, who says of him : 

" Pages like this go to my heart ; I feel that I 
should have written them." 1 

surrounds me on every side, when on every hand the warm 
air envelopes me which extends through the infinite distance ; 
when the very same lush grasses that I have crushed in 
throwing myself on the ground make the verdure of the 
infinite meadows ; when the same leaves which, shaken by 
the wind, throw the shadow on my face, make the sombre 
blue of the distant forest ; when the very air I breathe makes 
the light-blue background of the infinite sky ; when not I 
alone am delighting in nature ; when around me whirl and 
hum millions of insects and the birds are singing. The 
greatest delight in nature is when I feel myself making a 
part of all. Here (in Switzerland) the infinite distance is 
beautiful, but I have nothing in common with it." (May, 1851.) 

1 Conversations with M. Paul Boyer (Le Temps, August 28, 
1901). 

The similarity is really very striking at times, and might 
well deceive one. Take the profession of faith of the dying 
Julie : 

" I could not say that I believed what it was impossible 
for me to believe, and I have always believed what I said I 
believed. This was as much as rested with me." 

Compare Tolstoy's letter to the Holy Synod : 

" It may be that my beliefs are embarrassing or displeasing. 
It is not within my power to change them, just as it is not in 
my power to change my body. I cannot believe anything 
but what I believe, at this hour when I am preparing to return 
to that God from whom I came." 

Or this passage from the Reponse a Christophe de Beaumont, 
which seems pure Tolstoy : 

"I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. My Master has told me 
that he who loves his brother accomplishes the law." 

Or again : 

"The whole of the Lord's Prayer is expressed in these 
16 



242 TOLSTOY 

But what a difference between the two minds, 
and how much more purely Christian is Tolstoy's 1 
What a lack of humility, what Pharisee-like arro- 
gance, in this insolent cry from the Confessions of 
the Genevese : 

" Eternal Being 1 Let a single man tell me, if he 
dare : I was better than that man 1 " 

Or in this defiance of the world : 

" I say it loudly and fearlessly : whosoever could 
believe me a dishonest man is himself a man to 
be suppressed." 

Tolstoy wept tears of blood over the " crimes " 
of his past life : 

" I suffer the pangs of hell. I recall all my past 
baseness, and these memories do not leave me ; 
they poison my life. Usually men regret that they 
cannot remember after death. What happiness if 

words : ' Thy Will be done ! ' " (Troisieme lettre de la Mon- 
tague.) 

Compare with : 

" I am replacing all my prayers with the Pater Noster. All 
the requests I can make of God are expressed with greater 
moral elevation by these words : ' Thy Will be done ! ' " 
(Tolstoy's Journal, in the Caucasus, 1852-3.) 

The similarity of thought is no less striking in the province 
of art: 

" The first rule of the art of writing," said Rousseau, " is to 
speak plainly and to express one's thought exactly." 

And Tolstoy : 

"Think what you will, but in such a manner that every 
word may be understood by all. One cannot write any- 
thing bad in perfectly plain language." 

I have demonstrated elsewhere that the satirical descrip- 
tions of the Paris Opera in the Nouvelle Hiloise have much in 
common with Tolstoy's criticisms in What is Art* 



CONCLUSION 243 

it should be so ! What suffering it would mean 
if, in that other life, I were to recall all the evil I 
have done down here ! " x 

Tolstoy was not the man to write his confessions, 
as did Rousseau, because, as the latter said, u feeling 
that the good exceeded the evil it was in my interest 
to tell everything." 2 Tolstoy, after having made 
the attempt, decided not to write his Memoirs ; the 
pen fell from his hands ; he did not wish to be an 
object of offence and scandal to those who would 
read it. 

" People would say : There, then, is the man 
whom many set so high 1 And what a shameful 
fellow he was ! Then with us mere mortals it is 
God who ordains us to be shameful." 3 

Never did Rousseau know the Christian faith, the 
fine modesty, and the humility that produced the 
ineffable candour of the aged Tolstoy. Behind 
Rousseau we see the Rome of Calvin. In Tolstoy 
we see the pilgrims, the innocents, whose tears and 
naive confessions had touched him as a child. 

But beyond and above the struggle with the 
world, which was common to him and to Rousseau, 
another kind of warfare filled the last thirty years of 
Tolstoy's life ; a magnificent warfare between the 
highest powers of his mind : Truth and Love. 

Truth " that look which goes straight to the 
heart," the penetrating light of u those grey eyes 
which pierce you through " Truth was his earliest 
faith, and the empress of his art. 

x Journal, January 6, 1903. a Quatrilme Promenade. 

3 Letter to Birukov. 



244 TOLSTOY 

" The heroine of my writings, she whom I love 
with all the forces of my being, she who always 
was, is, and will be beautiful, is Truth." x 

The truth alone escaped shipwreck after the death 
of his brother. 2 The truth, the pivot of his life, the 
rock in the midst of an ocean. 

But very soon the " horrible truth "3 was no 
longer enough for him. Love had supplanted it. 
It was the living spring of his childhood ; " the 
natural state of his soul." 4 When the moral crisis 
of 1880 came he never relinquished the truth ; he 
made way for love.5 

Love is " the basis of energy." 6 Love is the 
" reason of life ; the only reason, with beauty." 7 
Love is the essence of Tolstoy ripened by life, of 
the author of War and Peace and the Letter to the 
Holy Synod* 

1 Sebastopol in May, 1853. 

3 " The truth. . . . the only thing that has been left me of 
my moral conceptions, the sole thing that I shall still fulfil." 
(October 17, i860.) 

3 Ibid. 

* " The love of men is the natural state of the soul, and 
we do not observe it." (Journal, while he was a student at 
Kazan.) 

s " The truth will make way for love." (Confessions.) 

6 " ' You are always talking of energy ? But the basis of 
energy is love,' said Anna, ' and love does not come at will.' " 
(Anna Karenin.) 

7 " Beauty and love, those two sole reasons for human 
existence." (War and Peace.) 

8 " I believe in God, who for me is Love." (To the Holy 
Synod, 1901.) 

" ' Yes, love ! . . . Not selfish love, but love as I knew it, for 
the first time in my life, when I saw my enemy dying at my 



CONCLUSION 245 

This interpenetration of the truth by love makes 
the unique value of the masterpieces he wrote in 
the middle part of his life net mezzo del cammin 
and distinguishes his realism from the realism of 
Flaubert. The latter places his faith in refraining 
from loving his characters. Great as he may be, 
he lacks the Fiat lux ! The light of the sun is 
not enough : we must have the light of the heart. 
The realism of Tolstoy is incarnate in each of his 
creatures, and seeing them with their own eyes he 
finds in the vilest reasons for loving them and for 
making us feel the chain of brotherhood which 
unites us to all. 1 By love he penetrates to the roots 
of life. 

But this union is a difficult one to maintain. 
There are hours in which the spectacle of life 
and its suffering are so bitter that they appear an 
affront to love, and in order to save it, and to 
save his faith, a man must withdraw to such a 
height above the world that faith is in danger of 
losing truth as well. What shall he do, moreover, 
who has received at the hands of fate the fatal, 
magnificent gift of seeing the truth the gift 
of being unable to escape from seeing it ? Who 
shall say what Tolstoy suffered from the continual 

side, and loved him. ... It is the very essence of the soul. 
To love his neighbour, to love his enemies, to love all and 
each, is to love God in all His manifestations ! ... To love a 
creature who is dear to us is human love : to love an enemy 
is almost divine love ! ' " (Prince Andrei in War and Peace.) 

1 "The passionate love of the artist for his subject is the 
soul of art. Without love no work of art is possible." (Letter 
of September, 1889.) 



246 TOLSTOY 

discord of his latter years the discord between 
his unpitying vision, which saw the horror of 
reality, and his impassioned heart, which con- 
tinued to expect love and to affirm it ? 

We have all known these tragic conflicts. How 
often have we had to face the alternative not to 
see, or to hate ! And how often does an artist 
an artist worthy of the name, a writer who knows 
the terrible, magnificent power of the written 
word feel himself weighed down by anguish as 
he writes the truth ! * This truth, sane and virile, 
necessary in the midst of modern lies, this vital 
truth seems to him as the air we breathe . . . But 
then we perceive that this air is more than the 
lungs of many can bear. It is too strong for the 
many beings enfeebled by civilisation ; too strong 
for those who are weak simply in the kindness of 
their hearts. Are we to take no account of this, 
and plunge them implacably into the truth that 
kills them ? Is there not above all a truth which, 
as Tolstoy says, " is open to love " ? Or is the 
artist to soothe mankind with consoling lies, as 
Peer Gynt, with his tales, soothes his old dying 
mother ? Society is always face to face with this 
dilemma : the truth, or love. It resolves it in 
general by sacrificing both. 

Tolstoy has never betrayed either of his two 
faiths. In the works of his maturity love is the 
torch of truth. In the works of his later years 

1 " I write books, which is why I know all the evil they do." 
. . . (Letter to P. V. Veriguin, leader of the Doukhobors, 
1898. Further Letters.) 



CONCLUSION 247 

it is a light shining on high, a ray of mercy 
which falls upon life, but does not mingle with 
it. We have seen this in Resurrection, wherein 
faith dominates the reality, but remains external 
to it. The people, whom Tolstoy depicts as 
commonplace and mean when he regards the 
isolated figures that compose it, takes on a divine 
sanctity so soon as he considers it in the abstract. 1 

In his everyday life appears the same discord as 
in his art, but the contrast is even more cruel. 
It was in vain that he knew what love required 
of him ; he acted otherwise ; he lived not accord- 
ing to God but according to the world. And 
love itself : how was he to behave with regard to 
love ? How distinguish between its many aspects, 
its contradictory orders ? Was love of family to 
come first, or love of all humanity ? To his last 
day he was perplexed by these alternatives. 

What was the solution ? He did not find it. 
Let us leave the self-sufficient, the coldly intel- 
lectual, to judge him with disdain. They, to be 
sure, have found the truth ; they hold it with 
assurance. For them, Tolstoy was a sentimen- 
talist, a weakling, who could only be of use as a 
warning. Certainly he is not an example that 

1 See the Russian Proprietor, or see in Concessions, the 
strongly idealised view of these men, simple, good, content 
with their lot, living serenely and having the sense of life : 
or, at the end of the second part of Resurrection, that vision 
"of a new humanity, a new world," which appeared to 
Nekhludov when he met the workers returning from their 
toil. 



248 TOLSTOY 

they can follow : they are not sufficiently alive. 
Tolstoy did not belong to the self-satisfied elect ; 
he was of no Church ; of no sect ; he was no 
more a Scribe, to borrow his terms, than a Pharisee 
of this faith or that. He was the highest type of 
the free Christian, who strives all his life long 
towards an ideal that is always more remote. 1 

Tolstoy does not speak to the privileged, the 
enfranchised of the world of thought ; he speaks 
to ordinary men hominibus bonae voluntatis. He 
is our conscience. He says what we all think, 
we average people, and what we all fear to read 
in ourselves. He is not a master full of pride : 
one of those haughty geniuses who are throned 
above humanity upon their art and their intelli- 
gence. He is as he loved to style himself in 
his letters, by that most beautiful of titles, the 
most pleasant of all "our brother." 

1 "A Christian should not think whether he is morally 
superior or inferior to others ; but he is the better Christian 
as he travels more rapidly along the road to perfection, 
whatever may be his position upon it at any particular 
moment. Thus the stationary virtue of the Pharisee is less 
Christian than that of the thief, whose soul is moving rapidly 
towards the ideal, and who repents upon his cross." {Cruel 
Pleasures.) 



INDEX 



INDEX 



(The names of characters and titles of books are in italics). 



Alexandra, Tolstoy's aunt, 18 
Ancestry, Tolstoy's, 14, 15 
Analysis, self-, 29 
Andrei Bolkonsky, Prince, 88-90 

94, 100 
Anna Karenin (novel), 76, 84, 

99, 102, 203 
Anna Karenin (character), 103, 

104 
Arabian Nights, 19, 169 
Art- 
Attacks on modern, 145, 146 
Tolstoy's conception of, 147- 

150 
His ignorance of, 151 
His religious ideal of art, 156 
Christian art extinct, 157 
The art of the future, 159 
Endowment of, 159 
Mission of, 160 
Austerlitz, 89, 90 

Bach, 153 

Bachkirs, the, 102 

Bagraiion, 88 

Beethoven, 151, 155, 181, 183 

Bers family, the, 75 

Bers, S. A., 179 



Bers, Sophie, see Countess 

Tolstoy 
Besoukhov, Pierre, 88, 91-4, 

100 
Bloody Sunday, 212 
Bocklin, 151 
Boyer, Paul, 167 
Boyhood, 42 
Brahms, 151 
Breton, Jules, 151 
Brothers, Tolstoy's, 17 
Brush with the Enemy, A, 44 
Bylines, 19, 168 

Caucasus, Tolstoy joins Army 

of the, 33 
Census, the, Tolstoy assists in 

taking, 127 
Chavannes, P. de, 151 
Childhood, Tolstoy's, 17-19 
Childhood, Boyhood, Youth, 15, 
16, 19, 23 
Begun in the Caucasus, 35 ; 39 
Tolstoy's later opinion of, 40 ; 

84 
See Boyhood and Youth 
China, Tolstoy's admiration for, 
220 



252 



INDEX 



Christ, Tolstoy's conception of, 

119 
Concordance and Translation 

of the Four Gospels, 118 
Confessions, 106, 120, 238 
Cossacks, The, 44 
Countess Tolstoy 

Character and abilities, 83 
As model, 84; 100, 135-8, 

226-7 
Letter to, 229-31 
Creed, Tolstoy's, 123-4 
Crimea, transference to the, 49 
Criticism of Dogmatic Theology, 

118 
Criticism of art, destructive, 

151 
Cycle of Readings, 200 

Death of Ivan Ilyitch, 

The, 6, 68, 165, 174-5 
Decembrists, The (a projected 

novel), 91 
Diary of a Sportsman, 68, 75 
Diary of Prince D. Nekhludov, 65 
Dmitri Tolstoy, 17 
Death of, 106-7 
Don Quixote, 158 
Dostoyevsky, 158, 193 
Dreyfus Affair, the, 154 
Droujinine, 61 

Education, Tolstoy's ideas 
concerning, 23-5, 66 

End of a World, The, 201 

England, Tolstoy contemplates 
retiring to, 103 

Erochta, the old Cossack, 45 



Execution, effect of a public 
64 

Faith, Tolstoy's, brings no 

happiness, 128 
Family, Tolstoy's, 16 
Family dissensions, 228 
Family Happiness, 75-7, 84 
Father, Tolstoy's, 16 
Feminism, Tolstoy's attitude 

towards, 138 
Flaubert's opinion of Tolstoy's 

work, 99, 245 

Gapon, Father, 212 
George, Henry, 225 
Georgians, the, 213 
Goethe, 156 
Gontcharev, 61 
Great Crime, The, 201, 210 
Greek, Tolstoy studies, 101 
Gricha, the idiot, 18 
Grigorovitch, 61 

Hadji Mourad, 199 
Hebrew, Tolstoy studies, 137 
Home, Tolstoy's, see Yasnaya 

Polyana 
Hugo, Victor, 158 
Hunting, renounced, 132 

Ibsen, 151 

Introspection, Tolstoy's faculty 

of, 29 
Invasion, The, 35, 42 
Irtenieff, Nikolas, 15 

Joseph, the History of, 19, 159 
Journal, Tolstoy's, 14, 27, 34 



INDEX 



Ka renin, 106 

Karatayev, 91 

Kazan, 23 

Khlopoff, Captain, 43 

Kitty Levine, 84, 103 

Klinger, Max, 151 

Kozeltoff, brothers, in Sebastopol 

in August, 1855, 56-7 
Kreutzer Sonata, The, 165, 174, 

176-7, 181 
Kutuzof, 88, 90-1 

Levine, 103, 106-8, m 

Lhermitte, 151 

Liberal Party, Tolstoy's disdain 
of the, 66, 202-3 

Life, 120 

Literary Society of St. Peters- 
burg, Tolstoy's dislike of, 
61-67 

Logic, heroic, 129-130 

Love 

Definition of, 122 

Tolstoy's attitude towards 

sexual, 177 
Law of, 211 

Lucerne, incident of the singer, 
65 

Manet, 151 

Marriage, Tolstoy's views con- 
cerning, 100, 177 
Marie, Princess, 88-9 
Marie Tolstoy, 16, 94 
Maslova, 191 
Master and Servant, 165 
Michelangelo, 151 
Millet, 151 



Moliere, 158 

Moscow, effect of visit to, 127, 

130, 147 
Music 
Love of, 28-9 
Ignorance of modern music, 

151-2; 153 
In the Kreutzer Sonata, 178 
Dread of, 179 
Suggested State control over, 

182-3 

Natasha, 90, 93-4, 179-180 
Nekhludov, 26-8, 33, 68, 181, 191 
Nekhludov, Diary of Prince D., 65 
Nikolas Tolstoy, 17, 33 

Dies of phthisis, 69 
Non-Resistance, 211, 225 

Old Believers, the, 212 
Olenin, 45 

Orthodox Church, Tolstoy's re- 
lations with the, 117 
Ostrovsky, 61 

Pakhom the Peasant, 169- 

170 
Parents, Tolstoy's, 15-16 
Pascal, 120 
Pedagogy, 135 
Polikushka, 70, 78 
Popular Tales, 42, 165, 168 
Popular idiom, 167-8 
Portraits of Tolstoy 

Of 1848, 26 (note) 

Of 1851, 35 

Of 1856, 61 

Of 1885, 129 ; 140 



254 



INDEX 



Posdnicheff, 177, 182 

Power of Darkness, The, 165, 

170-3 
Prashkhoukhine, death of, 54 

Reason (letter upon), 121 
Reason, Tolstoy's distrust of, 

108; 120-121 
Religion 
Tolstoy's vague agnosticism 

as a youth, 24 
Revival of, in the Caucasus, 

33-9; 100, 123-4, I35> 

209, 215-16 
Rembrandt, 151 
Resurrection, 166, 187-195, 224, 

247 
Revolution, Tolstoy prophesies, 

209-10 
Roumania, Tolstoy joins Army 

of, 49 
Rousseau, J. J., worship of, 27 ; 

240-3 
Rules of Life, 25 
Russian Proprietor, A, 27 
Written in the Caucasus, 

35; 42 

Russo-Japanese War, 201 

St. Petersburg, Tolstoy's dis- 
like of literary society 
of, 61, 67 
Samara, 102 

Schopenhauer, 101 (note) 
Science, Tolstoy attacks, 145 
Sebastopol in December, 1854, 

52 
Sebastopol in May, 1855, 52-6 



Sebastopol in August, 1855, 52, 

54-7 
Sebastopol, the siege of, 49-57 
Sexual morality, 177 
Shakespeare, 166 
Shakespeare, no artist, 152-3, 

155-* 
Siegfried, hasty judgment on, 

152 

" Smartness," Tolstoy's worship 
of, 27 

Socialism, Tolstoy's hatred of, 
205-8 

Society, pictures of Russian, 103 

Sophia Bers, see Countess Tol- 
stoy 

Sovremennik, the (Russian re- 
view), 40 

Spelling-book, Tolstoy's, 135 

State, the, a murderous entity, 

130 

Stepan Arcadievitch, 105 
Sterne, influence of, 41 
Story-teller, a blind, 19 
Strauss, 151 
Stuck, 151 
Suares, 6, 61 

Suicidal tendencies, 107, in, 
"3 

Tatiana, Tolstoy's aunt, 17 

Tchaikowsky, 151 

Terror, attack of nervous, 100 

Three Deaths, 68 

Three Old Men, 168 

Tolstoy, Countess, 75, 83, 84, 

100, 135-8, 226-7, 229- 

231 



INDEX 



255 



Tolstoy, Dmitri, 17 

Death of, 106-7 
Tolstoy, Leo 

Reception of his work in 

France, 6 
Influence of Rousseau and 

Stendhal, 7 
Organic unity of his life, 13 
Ancestry and inheritances, 

14-15 

Childhood, 17-19 
Student days, 23-5 
Personal appearance (see Por- 
traits), 25-6 
Joins Army of Caucasus, 33 
Religious experiences, 33-4 
First literary work, 35 
Effects of illness, 39 
Early work, 41-5 
Love of life, 46 
Transferred to Crimea, 49 
Narratives of Sebastopol, 52 
Enters St. Petersburg literary 

society, 61 
Quarrels with Tourgenev, 63 
Travels in Europe, 64 
Studies pedagogy, 66 
Effect of his brother's death 

70 
Courtship, 75 
Marriage, 76-83 
War and Peace, 83-95 
Anna Karenina, 99 
Effect of Dmitri's death, 107 
Suicidal tendencies, in 
His " conversion," 1 15-16 
Joins the Orthodox Church, 
117 



Tolstoy Leo (continued) 

Leaves it, 117 

Visits Moscow, 127 

Commences to write on re- 
ligious subjects, 136 

Differences with Countess 
Tolstoy, 136-7 

Spiritual loneliness, 140 

Attacks upon modern art and 
science, 145 

His ignorance of art, 151 

Ignorance of modern music, 

152 

Attack upon Shakespeare, 

153-7 
Religious and aesthetic ideals, 

156-61 
His fear of music, 178-80 
Political ideals, 214 
Religious ideals, 215-16 
Old age, 219 
Political hopes, 220 
Loneliness, 228 
Intends leaving his family, 

229 
Death, 234 
Tolstoy, Nikolas, 17, 33, 69 
Toppfer, influence of, 41 
Tourgenev, 17, 61-3 
Criticism of Tolstoy, 95, 140, 
202 
Turkey, war declared upon, 

49 

Two Hussars, The, 68 

Volodya, see Kozeltojff 
Vogue, Mclchior de, 140 
Vronsky, 103-4 



256 



INDEX 



Wagner, Tolstoy's hasty judg- 
ment of, 152, 155 
War and Peace, 15, 43, 84, 95, 

99-101, 103-5 
What I Believe, 141 
What is Art? 149-50, 166 
What shall we do ? 129, 138 
Woman, Tolstoy's ideal of, 
138-9 



Woodcutters, The, 44 

Yasnaya Polyana, 16, 33 
Tolstoy returns to, 65 
Experiments at, 66-7 ; 224, 228 

Youth 
Written during the siege of 

Sebastopol, 50 
Lyrical beauty of, 51 



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